HARARE – Millionaire businessman Frank Buyanga has left Zimbabwe with his five-year-old son, his lawyers said ahead of a court hearing pencilled in for Thursday.
Buyanga, who also holds South African citizenship, dramatically snatched the boy from a parked vehicle on March 26, after having reported him as missing to the police, and accusing his ex-girlfriend Chantelle Muteswa of abducting him.
Muteswa has filed an urgent High Court application seeking to recover her son. The matter, initially set down to be heard on Monday, was postponed after Buyanga’s lawyers said they had not been properly served with the summons.
In a dramatic twist on Wednesday, Buyanga’s lawyer Wilson Manase wrote to the registrar of the High Court revealing that the British-born businessman was “now out of the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court.”
Manase added: “He left and he is out of the country on business with the child. This application therefore has been overtaken by events. We believe that while the horse has bolted, this application has become irrelevant in so far as its intents are concerned.
“The applicant (Muteswa), if need be, must apply for an order she may seek in the country where the child may be.”
Manase stated that Buyanga had not broken any law as he had been granted joint custody of the child by the High Court.
“Our client, therefore, did not act in a manner which transgresses the law. The purported appeal by the applicant against Justice (Happious) Zhou’s judgement lapsed as it was not correctly served to the first respondent. In this regard, the appeal is a nullity,” Manase added.
In her application before the High Court, Muteswa is seeking an order compelling Buyanga and the police to return the five-year-old into her custody failing which the order should serve as an arrest warrant for the African Medallion Group boss.
In the event that the child has been removed from Zimbabwe, Muteswa and her lawyers want such removal to be declared wrongful, and for the minister of justice to establish where the child has been taken and commence procedures for his return.
Buyanga and his lawyers launched a flurry of letters this week, including writing to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to complain about the judge who will be hearing his case.
In the letter dated March 30, Buyanga said he had not been served papers about the urgent chamber application filed by Muteswa.
He also claimed that Justice Jacob Manzunzu, who allegedly issued an adverse judgement against him in 2019, had been phoned at least 15 times by a member of the “Mnangagwa family” before the delivery of the judgement.
“I have been furnished with evidence that one Collins Mnangagwa residing at Elshaddai Road in Glen Lorne has been assisting Chantelle Muteswa in her shenanigans. As he is the son of the president (Emmerson Mnangagwa), I decided not to act against him as the president is an old friend of mine and would rather keep evidence of this abuse of office for a later stage,” Buyanga wrote to the JSC.
He further claimed that in recent days, one Dylish Nguwaya, described as a “close companion” to the Mnangagwa family, has been communicating with the same judge, as has one Mallan Zorodzai Chiswa “who also has links to the Muteswa family.”
“Whilst I have the greatest respect ad trust in Justice Manzunzu, too many adverse inferences can be drawn which affect his neutrality over the issue,” Buyanga said, while also claiming that state intelligence agents had approached Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and other judges “to try and interfere in their work which goes against the constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Two days earlier, on March 28, Buyanga’s lawyer Admire Rubaya wrote to the police stating that “any insinuation that our client is on the run is misplaced.”
“Mr Frank Buyanga Sadiqi is not on the run for he has no reason whatsoever to be on the run… He is of the firm view that he did not commit any criminal offence at all which warrants the involvement of members of the police services,” Rubaya wrote in response to a police report filed by Muteswa, accusing Buyanga of abducting the child at gunpoint.
William Wilcock, Buyanga’s lawyer in South Africa, also released a statement reacting to a press conference conducted by Muteswa on March 28, during which she demanded the businessman’s arrest.
The lawyer said it was Muteswa who went to the Harare International School on March 11 and abducted the five-year-old who had been in Buyanga’s custody since July 2019. The lawyer said Muteswa “utilised an invalid court order to support her actions.”
“Muteswa fled from a police station with her son, whilst Sadiqi’s attorneys were preparing to explain to the police that Muteswa had no legal right to take her son from the school,” Wilcock said.
He said police and other government departments “refused to assist Buyanga in retrieving his son”.
“Buyanga has since recovered his son, who is now safe with him, where he is being provided with a stable and safe home,” added the lawyer.
Muteswa had sole custody of the child, with Buyanga having access until July last year when she was evicted from a property where she lived with her father.
Buyanga applied to a court to gain temporary custody of his son while alternative accommodation was sought. The temporary custody was later extended by the High Court. Muteswa had access rights, but never utilised them until she took the child on March 11, according to Buyanga’s lawyers.