24 July 2011

Tanzania: Kikwete Son to Face Dr Slaa in Court

Dar Es Salaam — Opposition leaders Dr Willibrod Slaa and Reverend Christopher Mtikila are set to face off President Jakaya Kikwete's son, Ridhiwani, in a high-profile court battle.

Ridhiwani has officially filed a defamation lawsuit against Chadema's secretary general and the chairman of Democratic Party (DP) Mtikila for allegedly accusing him of amassing questionable wealth since his father's ascendance to the presidency.

The duo had publicly accused him of using his father's influence to amass the purported wealth, and he wants his name to be cleared of the allegations.

In a case filed on Friday in the High Court, Ridhiwani also enjoined in the suit a daily Kiswahili newspaper owned by Chadema chairman and leader of the official opposition in Parliament, Mr Freeman Mbowe. The Hai MP is the proprietor of Free Media Limited, publishers of Tanzania Daima.

Managing Director of Printech Company and the editor of the said newspaper will also be party in the case whose first hearing date is to be set within two weeks.

Ridhiwani wants the court to order the defendants to pay him Sh2 billion in general damages, apologise and permanently restrain from further publishing and circulating "defamatory falsehood" touching on his personal life, his business or profession or other engagements.

The filing of the suit opens the doors for a likely tough legal battle, as the two accused politicians are on record saying they would "shame" Ridhiwani in court if he dared sue them.

Ridhiwani announced at a press conference in May that he intended to sue his detractors for what he described as 'false allegations', which he claimed were calculated to tarnish his image and that of his family.

But in a rejoinder, Dr Slaa said that he owed the junior Kikwete no apology and challenged him to send him to court.

Reverend Mtikila is also on record as saying he had ample evidence to prove in court how much wealth the junior Kikwete possessed. "I cannot apologise to anyone. I have enough evidence the young man has a lot of wealth which he did not acquire legitimately. Let him go to court, for I will prove my case," Mtikila had intoned.

Mtikila had claimed that Ridhiwani was a billionaire who owned, among other things, a transport company with a fleet of about 150 trucks, and a road construction firm, in addition to a number of mansions and buildings, as well as large chunks of land.

But Ridhiwani says in the suit he has filed through Law Associates Advocates that he has never abused his father-son relationship with the President to obtain illicit advantages or to loot the country's coffers.

He says he has been wrongly portrayed as a dishonest and corrupt young man. His image and reputation thus has been injured in the society, he further claims. He also argues that his standing and esteem in the society and in the eyes of his peers has been irreparably lowered.

"The plaintiff (Ridhiwani) is a young lawyer and youth leader who is the member of executive committee of the UVCCM. Further, the plaintiff is a public figure who is involved in many public engagements and good caused works and social organizations and he is therefore highly respected in the society," his lawyers say.

A month ago, Ridhiwani called a press conference where he denied being a billionaire. He said he only owned a 1.5 acre of land in Coast Region and a saloon car; and also owned three bank accounts at CRDB, NBC and Stanbic banks in the city. He did not disclose the amount of money in those accounts.

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