17 November 2012

Zimbabwe: CIO Boss Wins U.S.$10 Million Wikileaks Case

Photo: WDC
Loose round brilliant diamonds.

CENTRAL Intelligence Organisation director-general Retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe yesterday won a US$10 million defamation suit against Africa Consolidated Resources boss Andrew Cranswick.

Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyongwe sued Mr Cranswick over a WikiLeaks report that linked him to diamond looting in Chiadzwa.

High Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo granted a default judgment against Mr Cranswick and ordered him to pay costs of the suit.

"The application for rescission of judgment is hereby dismissed with costs. The application for default judgment be and is hereby granted.

"The defendant (Mr Cranswick) shall pay to the plaintiff the sum of US$10 million as damages for defamation together with interest thereon at the prescribed rate calculated with effect from the date of judgment to the date of full payment both dates inclusive.

"The defendant shall pay costs of suit," ruled Justice Hlatshwayo.

Acting on behalf of Mr Cranswick, Harare lawyer Mr Jonathan Samukange said he would contest the outcome at the Supreme Court.

"Naturally, we have to appeal against such an order. We are going to file a Supreme Court challenge soon. We are waiting for the record and when it is ready, we will draft the appeal papers," he said.

Before the court proceedings were instituted, Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyogwe's lawyer Mr Joseph Mafusire of Scanlen and Holderness law firm wrote to Mr Cranswick demanding the money.

The parties failed to agree, resulting in the filing of the lawsuit last year.

The report the CIO boss complained about was headlined: "Regime elites looting deadly diamond field" and it was dispatched on December 8, 2009.

According to Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyongwe's lawyers, the report indicated that "certain high-ranking Zimbabwean Government officials and well-connected elite were generating millions of dollars in personal income by engaging in illicit trade in diamonds from Chiadzwa mine in eastern Zimbabwe."

Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyongwe was mentioned among other officials or personnel or officers in the Zimbabwean Government.

Mr Mafusire, in the above-mentioned letter, quoted a portion of the WikiLeaks report that reads: "Cranswick said that RBZ Governor Gideon Gono, Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, (the then) Mines and Mining Development Minister Amos Midzi, General Constantine Chiwenga and wife Jocelyn, CIO director Happyton Bonyongwe, Manicaland Governor Chris Mushohwe and several white Zimbabweans including Ken Sharpe, Greg Scott and Hendrick O'Neill, are involved in the Marange diamond trade."

It was Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyongwe's contention that the report was false and he was never involved in any illegal trade of diamonds from Chiadzwa.

He felt the report that reached millions worldwide seriously defamed him and that he should be paid damages.

"Our client was never involved in any trade in diamonds from Chiadzwa or anywhere else. He has not been involved in any mineral of whatever kind in Zimbabwe or elsewhere," Mr Mafusire said.

Mr Cranswick's conduct, Mr Mafusire argued, severely damaged Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyongwe's fame and reputation.

It has impugned his dignity and character, he said.

"As a result of your conduct, our client has suffered damages. He intends to clear his name. That is done by claiming damages for defamation. In the premises, we are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, payment of the sum of US$10 million as damages for defamation," said Mr Mafusire.

The lawsuit was filed at the time the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe filed a US$15 million defamation claim against The Standard Newspaper that published stories based on the same WikiLeaks report.

Dr Gono also filed a US$12,5 million suit against the same newspaper over the report.

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