Meet the lawyers who defended the will of the people

Rudo Saungweme

It was a battle of big legal minds in the Constitutional Court on Wednesday where MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa sought to reverse the election victory of President-Elect, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

It became apparent that it is the brains that matter in a court not age after a 34 year old soft spoken Tawanda Kanengoni, who represented Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) stole the show and satisfactorily defended the electoral process from a volley of accusations by the MDC Alliance which was represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu. Advocate Lewis Uriri who represented President Emmerson Mnangagwa, did not disappoint as he tore into pieces the arguments presented by Adv Mpofu.

The question that then emerged after the historic 22 August was, “who are Tawanda Kanengoni and Lewis Uriri?”

Tawanda Kanengoni is a 34 year old Zimbabwean lawyer and writer. He is a senior partner with Nyika, Kanengoni Legal Practitioners. Kanengoni holds a Bachelor of Laws Honours with the University of Zimbabwe. In 2008 he joined Chikumbirike & Associates Legal Practitioners as a litigation lawyer. In 2013 he co-founded a law firm with Charles Nyika called Nyika, Kanengoni Legal Practitioners.

Kanengoni is also a prolific writer. In 2006 he was selected as one of twelve writers for a British Council writers’ development project called HiFive and went on to write a play titled “Hill View” which premiered at HIFA in 2007. He was selected to be one of the writers for the `Short Film Project` run by the Zimbabwe Film Festival Trust and his script, titled “Shungu”, premiered at the festival in 2007.

Kanengoni was awarded the second prize in the BBC African Performance radio playwriting competition for the play “A Home for Tai.” Under the HIFA Direct Project in 2008 he wrote a play entitled “Silent Words” which premiered at HIFA that year. The next year he wrote another play “In Living colour,” which premiered at HIFA 2009. In 2009 he worked on a play titled “Strange Conversations “together with a Zimbabwean director in Sweden. The play was performed in Sweden in April 2009.

Lewis Uriri is a Zimbabwean lawyer, Advocate of the Superior Courts of Zimbabwe and sports administrator. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration with the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. Uriri has a Master of Business Administration (with commendation) with the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, Master of Laws (LLM) (with commendation)-Commercial Law and International Financial Law, University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, Bachelor of Laws Honours, (LL.B(Hons),University of Zimbabwe.

Uriri was a lecturer in law at a number of colleges which includes; University of Zimbabwe, Oasis Commercial School and Trust Academy from 2003 to 2007. From June 2001 to June 2004, he was an associate lawyer at Honey and Blanckenberg Legal Practitioners. He became a partner at the law in July 2004 and served until September 2007. In September 2013, he was designated by the Government of Zimbabwe as one of the four State representatives on the international committee on the International Settlement of Investments Dispute (ICSID-World Bank) Panel of Arbitrators. In 2007 he became an Advocate of the Superior Courts of Zimbabwe.

Advocate Uriri defended President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa who was the first respondent of a Constitutional Court electoral result challenge by Nelson Chamisa. He also represented the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2013 along with Alec Muchadehama and Tarisai Mutangi in an electoral result challenge against Robert Mugabe who had been declared the winner of the July 2013 Harmonised Elections.

Uriri was the representor of evidence to the Ibrahim Commission into the ZIFA “Asiagate” match-fixing and bribery scandal. He represented religious leader Emmanuel Makandiwa and his wife in a case against Blessing and Upenyu Mashangwa where the Mashangwa was making six claims in their demand for $6.5 million.

Uriri has interest in sport apart from his legal career. He was appointed board of Caps United in December 2013 by the then owner, Twine Phiri. In November 2016 Uriri was appointed spokesperson of a PSL Emergency Committee.