HARARE – Sacked judge Erica Ndewere’s spirited bid to keep her Mercedes Benz has suffered a setback after the High Court has confirmed her employer, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)’s authority to recover the vehicle from her.
Ndewere, a High Court judge, was fired from the bench by President Emmerson Mnangagwa after a Tribunal that had been set to look into her suitability to continue holding the esteemed office found her guilty of misconduct.
Her sacking was followed by an ignominious asset stripping that saw her launch a spirited bid to keep her Mercedes Benz.
Ndewere filed a court application arguing JSC secretary, Walter Chikwanha had no authority to demand the vehicle back.
The former judge insisted she was entitled to purchasing the vehicle as per her conditions of service.
Ndewere argued that JSC was not the owner of the vehicle, but the office of the President instead.
However, in a setback to the axed jurist’s battle to keep the vehicle, High Court judge Joseph Chilimbe confirmed Chikwanha had powers to make an application on behalf of JSC.
“Having considered the arguments submitted on behalf of the parties, I find no substance in the challenge to the validity of the JSC resolution and the subsequent disposition of the founding affidavit by the JSC’s Secretary, Mr. Walter Chikwana; such validity to institute the present proceedings, having been established and confirmed by this court, the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.
“Accordingly, it is ordered; that the preliminary objections raised by the respondent be and is hereby disallowed with costs in the cause,” ruled the judge.
The High Court ruling follows last week’s drama in which Chief Justice Luke Malaba and Chikwanha sent staff to seize the car.
This happened at a time judgement had been reserved on the preliminary objections raised by Ndewere.
Reports say messengers of court spent four hours on her property after breaking into the garage and brought a locksmith to forcibly open the car.
On 1 November 2022, Ndewere wrote to the JSC stating she needed to exercise the option for her to buy the vehicle.
She said she was still waiting for a letter from JSC regarding her terminal benefits that include her leave days, pension and entitlement to the car.
JSC insists she is not entitled to buying the vehicle because she is no longer a sitting judge.
Chikwanha, in the present case, tendered a resolution made on June 6, 2019 by the JSC authorising him to sign legal documents on behalf of JSC.
Court upheld his arguments.
In granting the application, the judge ruled the JSC had established a reasonably arguable case, which deserves protection pending litigation.
According to court papers, the JSC gave Ndewere two top of the range vehicles, a Land Rover Discovery 4 and the Mercedes Benz E300.
Ndewere requested and was allowed to purchase the Land Rover Discovery 4 under given conditions of service on 9 April 2021.
At the time of her removal from office, she allegedly retained possession of the Mercedes Benz, which is registered in the name of the Master of the High Court, a former department of the JSC.
On April 19, 2022, the JSC demanded the return of the vehicle from Ndewere but she purportedly refused prompting court action.