21 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa Sues Over Succession

Photo: The Standard
President Robert Mugabe.

DEFENCE Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has filed a US$1 million lawsuit against Alpha Media Holdings over claims that he was leading a faction fighting to succeed President Mugabe. Minister Mnangagwa says in the court papers that an article published in the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper on May 11 2012 was false and highly defamatory of him.

The article entitled "Mnangagwa ready to rule" appeared on the front page of the newspaper edition.

Independent editor Dumisani Muleya is cited second defendant in the lawsuit.

Part of the article read: "Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has for the first time openly declared his interest in taking over from Robert Mugabe as the leader of Zanu-PF and the country, in remarks showing the succession battle in the party is intensifying.

"Mnangagwa told the Zimbabwe Independent last Friday at Heroes Acre during the burial of Zanu-PF Politburo member Edison Ncube he was ready to govern if given an opportunity.

"This virtually confirmed that he is positioning himself to succeed Mugabe, remarks which could anger senior Zanu-PF officials and fuel factionalism and internal power struggles ahead of the next elections. I am ready to rule if selected to do so, Mnangagwa said".

Dube Manikai and Hwacha law firm are representing Minister Mnangagwa.

The article, according to Minister Mnangagwa's lawyers, alleges that he was leader of a faction fighting and involved in power struggles with other Government officials to succeed the President of Zimbabwe.

I'm no faction leader, says Mnangagwa

"The article is false in that the plaintiff never made the remarks attributed to him in the article nor did he speak to the Zimbabwe Independent or anybody else as alleged," the plaintiff's declaration read.

As a result of the defamatory article, the minister argues, his reputation and good name was damaged.

He claims that he suffered defamation damages to the tune of US$1 million plus costs of the suit. The summons was issued on July 20 this year.

Artherstone and Cook law firm instructed Advocate Erik Morris to act for Alpha Media and Muleya.

The defendants' lawyers filed a notice of exception to the declaration on the basis that it did not disclose any cause of action.

The words complained of, according to the lawyers, were not defamatory per se and that they were not damaging to the minister's name and reputation.

Adv Morris filed heads of argument on September 17 2012 in which he stated that the article did not specifically allege that the minister was a leader of a faction although there was an implication.

"In most organisations, be they political, sporting or cultural, there is a vying for leadership. That is precisely why elections are held. The mere fact that an election is needed is an indication that two or more persons are seeking the vacant post and that therefore there exists plurality of factions.

"There is nothing to suggest that plaintiff is fanning division or creating dissent. (It is) merely that he is one of a number of people, including Vice President (Joice) Mujuru, who are interested in standing for office once the present presidential incumbent steps down or otherwise vacates office," read part of the heads of argument.

Adv Morris contends that the lawsuit was "an abuse of process in that the minister was seeking to enrich himself to an egregious extent for something that no reasonable person could possibly take umbrage".

The matter is yet to be set down for trial at the High Court.

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