ZANU PF strongman and faction leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Alpha Media Holdings for a story carried in the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper in May about him.
The paper quoted the Defence Minister as saying he was ready to govern if given an opportunity. It went on to say Mnangagwa was 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.
In court papers Mnangagwa says the article, published in May 2012 was false and highly defamatory of him. His lawyers said the story implies that he was leader of a faction fighting and involved in power struggles with other government officials, to succeed Robert Mugabe as party leader.
As a result of the alleged defamatory article, the minister argues, his reputation and good name are damaged.
Media analysts fear the lawsuit maybe part of the increasing media repression, ahead of elections. Alpha Media Holdings stands by its story.
Zimbabwe has in the last decade witnessed numerous aggressive crackdowns on the media, where the police have arrested and detained many journalists for writing articles perceived as anti-Mugabe or ZANU PF. The Mnangagwa case is yet another attempt to create a climate of fear to silence journalists in Zimbabwe.
Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said: 'Perhaps he wants to make a point in order to clean up his image and prove he's not a faction leader by sacrificing one or two journalists so that no one in future dares write anything about his faction links,' Muchemwa said.