Retired Justice Cheda reflects on past as journey to rebuild lawfirm begins

The Chronicle

Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
WHEN Retired Justice Maphios Cheda failed his Arithmetic in the late 1960s disqualifying him from proceeding to secondary school, it never dawned on him that one day he, together with brother would be among Zimbabwe’s celebrated judges.

He recalls sitting on the floor while doing his studies at the ‘furniture-less’ Garanyemba Primary School in Gwanda, Matabeleland South.

After failing to find a place at a secondary school, he resorted to learning through correspondence until he got his Ordinary Level certificate.

His elder brother, another Retired judge, Justice Misheck Cheda who was employed as a court interpreter at Gweru Magistrate Court encouraged him to concentrate on his studies so that he could join the Ministry of Justice after completing his secondary education.

Justice Cheda, who will be turning 68 in September this year, was employed at a canning company soon after completing his secondary education.

Retired Justice Maphios Cheda

When the then Ministry of Justice advertised clerk of court vacancies in 1975, Justice Cheda went for it and that is how his 47-year long journey in the legal fraternity started.

He was one of the first law students at the University of Zimbabwe after Independence after he was given a chance to further his studies through mature entry as he never went for Advanced Level.

From being a clerk of court to a public prosecutor, then magistrate, he rose through the ranks until he was appointed a High Court Judge in 2001.

In 2013, Justice Cheda worked as High Court Judge in Namibia where he helped the country establish an e-justice system.

Chronicle caught up with the retired justice who recently established Cheda and Cheda Associates in Bulawayo.

The name of the law firm may take readers back to 2015 when Cheda and Partners which was established by the same judge shut down, leaving 15 lawyers jobless.

This was after senior partners mismanaged trust funds amounting to US$335 000.

“I was first attracted to the legal system through my brother Justice Misheck Cheda who started his legal journey as a court interpreter in Gweru. My brother always encouraged me to join the Ministry of justice and I am happy that I applied to be a clerk of court as that job marked the beginning of my career,” he said.

“After Independence we enrolled at UZ and were one of the only two law students from Matabeleland, the other being Job Sibanda. As someone who didn’t do formal school for secondary, I didn’t even know how to write an essay which saw me getting 25 percent for the first assignment at UZ.”

He said the mark discouraged him a lot but he dealt with fears and securities head on and graduated with a degree in 1986.

“Some of my classmates fell along the way but I worked so hard and completed my studies and became a magistrate after that. I worked for some years and because I was ambitious, I delved into private practice where I worked for a law firm called Brassels and Sigidi,” he said.

Justice Cheda said after two years he got bored and decided to open his own law firm in 1992, a risky decision he took as Blacks then didn’t own law firms.

“They looked down on us black boys, they thought we would steal trust funds hence I decided to start mine with just a clerk, secretary and a messenger as my first employees. When I was appointed a judge in 2001, Cheda and Partners had grown with about 30 workers, half being lawyers,” he said.

“I worked as a judge up to 2013 in Bulawayo and got wind of the fact that Namibia wanted a judge for a particular case. I took it up and I went there but within a week of my assignment I was offered a job.”

He added that the Chief Justice and Judge President of Namibia then asked him to stay and since the conditions of service were better, he accepted the offer.

“I was doing criminal and civil work at the High Court and for some reason they decided they would rather have me in civil.

Since they only had one High Court in Windhoek, the Chief Justice asked if I was willing to go to Oshakati near the border of Angola and establish a civil division there,” he said.

“You as Zimbabweans are always ready and willing to go the extra mile so I was sent there to set up a civil court and we then also helped them set up an e-justice system which is still in place. I then retired when I turned 65 and came back but as a passionate lawyer I just couldn’t stay at home,” he added.

Although retired, Justice Cheda sits in a number of tribunals including the one on the land commission.

“I also chair the Midlands State University Staff disciplinary hearing, Gwanda State University, Mutare Campus I don’t know why these. I am also the current chair of the mental health tribunal for the whole country. The procedure is that when they leave Mlondolozi to be discharged to Ingutsheni or own homes, that tribunal must sit down and determine whether they are now fit and can be released as most of them are dangerous and facing serious crimes like murder, rape and other serious things,” added Justice Cheda.

On his new law firm, Justice Cheda said he will be engaging honest partners to work with since he will not appear before any court on behalf of his clients.

He said just like in 2001, he only has three employees.

“After realising there is a need for legal representation and the population keeps growing, I thought I could make a little contribution to the situation prevailing. People should understand and yes it’s still the same me who founded both firms but this is a new house in another area and different,” he said.

“My son is a lawyer based in South Africa and he will come in and any other lawyers who are honest can come and work under my watch. But those who are not honest should not bother because we will find a place for them in prison.”

The father of three enjoys travelling and outdoor activities. Apart from law, he loves cattle and goat ranching.

“It is very rare to find two judges from the same parents and I know that had they been alive they would be proud of how far we have come with my elder brother Misheck. My fellow Africans finding their way up the ladder should always seek to empower the next person so that we nurture progress in villages and communities,” he added. –@thamamoe

Article Source: The Chronicle

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