Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) secretary- general, Douglas Mwonzora, is walking a tight rope as he faces multiple criminal charges that could jeopardise both his political and legal career.
Mwonzora and Joseph Terera, a partner at his law firm, allegedly defrauded a client of US$15 000 which had been deposited into the trust account as a loan repayment.
They have both denied the charge arguing that the money is in the trust account.
Trial will resume on Tuesday when Mwonzora is expected to appear before magistrate, Milton Serima, along with Terera.
A conviction will not only spell doom for his professional career but might also result in Mwonzora losing his political office.
The theft case aside, the MDC-T secretary-general is also appearing at the Rusape magistrates’ court answering charges of inciting public violence along with 19 alleged accomplices.
His violence trial has been dragging on since 2011.
Mwonzora faces the possibility of a double jail sentence if convicted on both charges.
This is not the first time that Mwonzora has faced theft of trust funds charges.
Previously, he also faced two similar charges dating back to 2006 but Harare magistrate, Adonia Masawi, cleared.
The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) this week said it was closely monitoring the case in which Mwonzora is being tried for theft of trust funds.
LSZ president, Vimbai Nyemba, said the legal watchdog was interested in the case as it involves one of the society’s members.
“LSZ has a zero tolerance policy against corruption,” she said.
“We have got our own procedures that we follow in such cases.
“He will have to be asked to face the disciplinary committee and this is not necessarily at the end of the trial. We could even summon him while the case is still progressing if we feel there is need,” said Nyemba.
In Zimbabwe, lawyers are governed by the Legal Practitioners’ Act, a statute that creates the LSZ — the body that regulates the operations of legal practitioners to protect members of the public who could suffer loss of income when they fall prey to unscrupulous lawyers.
The LSZ issues practicing certificates that are renewed annually and carries periodic and impromptu spot checks and audits on law firms to ensure that they adhere to regulations.
As part of the regulations, lawyers are required to keep all clients’ money in trust accounts and contribute annually to the compensation fund in which resources are pooled collectively in case of unforeseen incidences.
LSZ has a stringent anti-corruption regime through which it de-lists lawyers that breach any of the regulations, effectively barring them from practicing.
MDC-T insiders said Mwonzora was increasingly getting frustrated by his punishing schedule as he has to attend to his legal cases, while at the same time discharging his party duties.
Being a family man, he also must ensure that there is food on the table back home.
Equally frustrating is the diminishing influence of the secretary-general in the MDC-T.
The clout commanded by the party’s secretary-general was watered down through constitutional amendments that were meant to forestall rebellions, previously led by Welshman Ncube in 2005 and Tendai Biti in April last year.
The powers were invested in the party’s president, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Before the amendments, the secretary-general enjoyed substantial control over party resources and had massive political influence.
This week Mwonzora appeared unperturbed by his miseries saying they were all fabricated by ZANU-PF “which is very uncomfortable having me as an opposition secretary-general.”
“ZANU-PF is the source of all these problems. They want to destroy me knowing very well that I am capable of delivering for the MDC-T. They will try any means possible but I know I will come out of this,” he said.
He denied being unhappy with his party position saying “the powers of the secretary general were not usurped, they were regularised.”