SUPREME Court judge Francis Bere has been suspended pending the determination by a tribunal set-up to investigate allegations of conflict of interest levelled against him, the Daily News can reveal.
Judicial Services Commission (JSC) spokesperson, Brian Nkiwane confirmed the suspension yesterday.
“The judge has been suspended in line with the constitutional provisions. In terms of section 187 (10) of the Constitution, if the question of removing a judge from office has been referred to a tribunal under this section, the judge is suspended from office until the President, on the recommendation of the tribunal, revokes the suspension or removes the judge from office,” Nkiwane said.
The tribunal will be chaired by retired judge Justice Simbi Mubako, who will work with Advocate Takawira Nzombe and Rekayi Maphosa.
Bere is accused of reportedly telephoning Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) lawyer Itai Ndudzo of Mutamangira and Associates, asking him to consider settling a civil dispute pitting Zinara and Fremus Enterprises, allegedly owned by the judge’s relatives.
The complaint was first raised before deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza during a court hearing before Ndudzo was asked to make the complaint in writing.
Bere denied the allegations, but admitted telephoning Ndudzo as a personal friend, a relationship he claimed started when they were both members of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) Ethics Committee.
However, Ndudzo denied having a personal relationship with Bere, saying he was surprised to receive a call from him trying to influence him to favour his relatives.
Bere is also under investigations following a ruling he made in the more than $2 million consultancy dispute between the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Meikles Limited and Widefree Investments.
Widefree, with links to businessman Joseph Kanyekanye, was a long standing client of Bere Brothers, a legal firm founded by the judge.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba ordered investigations into the alleged conflict of interest by Bere following Meikles executive chairperson John Moxon’s complaint with the JSC, claiming the judge was conflicted in ruling in Widefree Investments’ favour.
Malaba said the complaint raised issues relating to ethical conduct, before ordering an investigation into the case.
In his letter to Malaba, Moxon said he had information of Kanyekanye’s links with Bere.
“Information, however, has come to my attention that gives rise to the suspicion that conditions under which our Supreme Court case was heard do not meet the very high standards of impartiality and integrity that are associated with that court,” he said.