ZANU PF’s former provincial chairperson for Mashonaland East, Ray Kaukonde, has filed a $5 million defamation lawsuit against the Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers) over a series of newspaper articles published by The Sunday Mail and Sunday News in November last year alleging that he had sexually abused some female party members.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
In summons filed under case number HC10495/14, Kaukonde, through his lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu instructed by Mordecai Mahlangu, claims that the allegations were malicious, wrongful and plainly defamatory of his person.
According to court papers, on November 2 last year, The Sunday Mail published an article titled Ray Kaukonde in sex-for-power storm, while a similar article titled Kaukonde in sex scandal was also published in the Sunday News.
The two articles, it is alleged, stated as a matter of fact that Kaukonde demanded sexual favours from female Zanu PF female members aspiring for top leadership positions.
It is further alleged that Kaukonde, who was also Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister, targeted female teachers and civil servants, threatening them with transfers if they turned down his advances.
“As a result of the defamation, plaintiff has been damaged in his reputation and has suffered damages in the amount of $5 000 000,” Kaukonde’s lawyers said.
“The allegations in the context of the articles are malicious, wrongful and plainly defamatory of plaintiff (Kaukonde) in that they were intended and were understood by the readers of the publications to mean that plaintiff is immoral, depraved and unfit to hold responsible office,” Kaukonde said in his affidavit.
“Apart from the defamatory meaning of the articles as set out above, the articles carry the additional sting that plaintiff is a corrupt politician who abuses authority.”
The lawsuit was filed against Zimpapers alongside its employees Sunday News editor Tumeliso Makhurane and Sunday Mail acting editor Mabasa Sasa, as first, second and third respondents respectively.
But in its defence, Zimpapers and its editors denied that the articles were defamatory and maintained that they had a moral duty to inform the public on anything concerning aspiring public office bearers.
“The defendants admit that the two articles as published did contain the averments as listed,” Zimpapers said through its lawyers Muzangaza, Mandaza & Tomana.
“The defendants, however, aver that the statements were published of and about a public figure, in the public interest, ahead of an event of national interest, being the 6th National People’s Congress of the ruling party in Zimbabwe.
“The defendants further aver that they acted in fulfilment of their role of informing the public, who have a legitimate interest in receiving information of and about persons holding or aspiring to public office,” they added.