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Retired colonel launches defamation suit against local newspaper

(MISA/IFEX) - 30 November 2011 - A defamation case in which "The Masvingo Mirror" is being sued for US$100,000 by a member of ZANU PF's Bikita District Co-ordinating Committee, retired Colonel Claudius Makova, commenced in the Harare High Court on 29 November 2011.

The defamation suit arose from a story published in the newspaper on 3 July 2008 entitled, "Big war in Bikita". The story referred to Makova's alleged interests in Bikita Minerals and implication in acts of violence.

Makova told High Court Justice Susan Mavhangira the story in question had damaged his reputation politically and among the general readership of the newspaper in the province. The "Masvingo Mirror" is based in the southern town of Masvingo.

He said the defamatory substance within the story lay in the reference to him as "stupid and greedy". It was his contention the story portrayed him as a terrorist on account of the fact that the story alleged he was "terrorising" mine workers.

Makova was cross-examined by defence lawyer Andrew Demo on the justification for the amount he was claiming in light of the newspaper's reach and the fact that he had been accorded a chance to comment on the allegations within the same story.

Makova, who appeared at pains in trying to justify the sum he was demanding, later relented that the sum might be too much and that he would stand guided by the court.

The acting editor of the weekly newspaper "Garikayi Mafirakureva" told the court that in his opinion the story was fair and balanced.

Golden Maunganidze, the then editor and writer of the story in question, was also called to the stand. Maunganidze said the story was not defamatory as he had given both sides an opportunity to comment on the allegations at the relevant time. Maunganidze said claims by the retired colonel that the story was read on the internet were not true as the publication was not online by then.

The court case will resume on 30 November 2011.

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