By Daniel Nemukuyu
The High Court has reserved its ruling on whether or not the $5 million defamation lawsuit pitting Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and fugitive former Cabinet minister Professor Jonathan Moyo should be referred to trial. VP Chiwenga is claiming $5 million from Prof Moyo in damages arising from a Press statement that insinuated that the senior Government official did not earn his doctoral degree from KwaZulu-Natal University in South Africa.
Prof Moyo’s statements seemed to suggest that someone other than the VP could have authored the thesis on his behalf.
Prof Moyo, through his lawyer Mr Chris Mhike of Artherstone & Cook, filed an application for exception to the suit.Justice Lavender Makoni yesterday heard arguments from both parties and postponed the ruling to allow her to consider the arguments and come up with a judgment.
Advocate Brian Hungwe represented VP Chiwenga.
Mr Mhike sought dismissal of the case on the basis that the summons relied on by the VP did not clearly state the nature of damages being sought.
He described the suit as vague and embarrassing.
Mr Mhike added that dispute was more of a war of politicians and that the statement complained of should simply be treated like any other political discourses.
Adv Hungwe argued that the summons clearly indicates that the damages sought arose from a defamatory statement.
He argued that in the press statement, Prof Moyo was trying to put an imputation that another person wrote the PhD and that the VP committed academic fraud.
Prof Moyo issued the statement on July 9 last year and it was published on various media platforms, portraying the then ZDF Commander as a dishonest person who cheated to get the PhD qualification.
Part of the press statement deemed to be defamatory read: “Finally, I’m happy that Chiwenga wants pre- and post-independence disclosures about who was who, who did what and so forth. That’s good.
“Meanwhile, I take that to mean he wants the disclosure of who contributed what to his doctorate and who really wrote his KZN PhD. Again, the Shona wisdom that kunyarara kurinani pane kutaura, applies. #Handeitione.”
VP Chiwenga, through his lawyers, contends that the statement was highly defamatory of him and he is entitled to the damages.
The lawyers argued that the words were wrongful and that Prof Moyo only sought to soil the VP’s good name.
“The words in the context of the article, are wrongful, and defamatory per se of the plaintiff in that they were intended and understood by readers to mean that the plaintiff lacks integrity, is dishonest, deceitful, and fraudulent in that he never made a contribution towards his post-graduate doctorate studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and that another person wrote the thesis as a fulfilment to his doctoral studies,” reads the plaintiff’s declaration.
VP Chiwenga contends that the same words can be taken to mean that he plagiarised and violated the research methods at the university, which is an act of misconduct.
“Apart from the defamatory statement was an intention to convey an innuendo that the plaintiff is, in fact, dishonest, deceitful and given the fraudulent behaviour, that his academic post-graduate Doctorate in Philosophy qualification from the University of KwaZulu-Natal is an academic fraud,” reads the declaration.
VP Chiwenga is a decorated liberation war hero held in high esteem locally and regionally.
He argues that he suffered severe damage to his reputation and moral standing because of Prof Moyo’s statement, which appeared in various publications.