ZIMBABWE – The case in which Zanu-PF Politburo member Professor Jonathan Moyo is suing Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe over two articles published in the Daily News based on WikiLeaks reports has been referred to trial.
Prof Moyo is claiming US$100 000 in damages for both articles. High Court judge Justice Samuel Kudya referred the matter in which the editor of the Daily News, Stanley Gama, the writer Thelma Chikwanha and the ANZ are cited as respondents, to trial after both parties failed to settle the matter during a pretrial conference.
The Daily News published an article on the front page of its edition of September 6 last year, headlined “Moyo’s plans to oust Mugabe”.
In the article Prof Moyo was alleged to have advised former American ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Christopher Dell on how to penetrate and oust President Mugabe from power.
The tips, according to the article, included information on how the US could achieve President Mugabe’s ouster through tapping into some of his reformminded allies. On September 7, 2011, the same newspaper published another article “Moyo advised US on ZanuPF sanctions list”.
The article was on the daily paper’s second page. It described Prof Moyo as a “serial flipflopper” who was vocal on the sanctions issue but on the other end was seeking placement of some key ZanuPF individuals on the sanctions list.
The report labelled Prof Moyo a “useful messenger” to the US officials and someone who sought US assistance for the removal of President Mugabe from power. The two stories, Prof Moyo argues, were unlawful, scandalous, contrived, fabricated, false, absurd and highly defamatory.
Prof Moyo argues that the claims that he compiled and supplied a list of ZanuPF members who he wanted placed on the sanctions list were false.
He wants US$50 000 on each article as defamation damages. A pretrial meeting was held recently and the case was referred to trial. The judge to be allocated the matter will determine whether Prof Moyo was injured in his good name and reputation by the paper’s articles.
He will also decide whether the articles were an accurate reflection of the interview that Prof Moyo gave the US ambassador or they were a deliberate contrivance and fabrication of the Daily News. The issue on whether the WikiLeaks document can be said to be in the public domain and whether the public have an interest in Prof Moyo’s interview with then US ambassador will also be dealt with.
The court will also decide on whether Prof Moyo is entitled to the damages he is claiming or not.
The High Court is yet to set the trial date. ANZ is opposing the claim and wants the court to reject it for lack of merit.
Through its lawyers, Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans, ANZ argues that the WikiLeaks document was in the public domain and members of the public had access to it. The company also argues that it merely produced a document that was already being circulated in public.ANZ further argues that Prof Moyo is a public figure and what he does is a matter of public interest.
The articles purport to be premised on an interview given by Prof Moyo to the then US Ambassador to Zimbabwe on March 30, 2007. Mr Joseph Mandizha of Mandizha and Company is acting for Prof Moyo.