Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited will not be silenced and will defend a $9 million defamation lawsuit filed against the media house at the High Court by Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo.
In his summons, Prof Moyo cited Zimpapers, its editors and reporters, accusing them of publishing stories whose effect, he alleged, impaired his dignity.
The articles, most of which were equally covered by the private media, stemmed from a criminal investigation launched by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) regarding how he utilised funds from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef).
Some of the cited articles emanated from press conferences that were covered by all media houses and addressed by commissioners from Zacc, while others were lifted from his Twitter handle. Others arose from parliamentary proceedings.
Prof Moyo cited articles published by The Herald, The Chronicle, The Sunday News and The Sunday Mail and alleged that they portrayed him as a dishonest man, a thief and a corrupt minister unfit to hold public office.
The articles he cited had the following headlines: “Probe into Prof Moyo,” “Probe into Prof Moyo, Dr Gandawa: The Details,” “Moyo likens self to Robin Hood,” “Prof Moyo ‘admits’ funds abuse,” “Zanu-PF didn’t get Zimdef loot,” “Parly summons Professor Moyo” and “Parly summons Professor Moyo to explain Zimdef abuse allegations.”
It is Prof Moyo’s averment that the articles, most of which he said were published in the 40 days prior to the issuance of summons, were in furtherance of the media outlet to defame and malign him.
“The claims, allegations and assertions made by the defendants as set out above are false, malicious, scandalous, wrongful and defamatory of plaintiff in the extreme in that on their plain and ordinary meaning, they simply allege theft, corruption and a penchant for lawlessness by plaintiff and were intended by the defendants and understood by the readers of the The Herald, The Chronicle, The Sunday Mail and The Sunday News to mean that the plaintiff is corrupt, that plaintiff is a thief who diverted fuel coupons meant for Zimbabwe Youth Council and sold them on the black market for personal profit,” read the summons.
Prof Moyo also alleged that the articles were understood to mean that he was engaged in subversive and unlawful conduct demonstrative of disloyalty to the President, his appointing authority by plotting student demonstrations against the Head of State and utilised funds to bankroll the said demonstrations during a graduation ceremony at the University of Zimbabwe last year.
“In addition to the plain and defamatory per se, contents of the articles as set out above, the defamatory allegations carry with them the secondary meaning, innuendo and sting that the plaintiff is not a law abiding citizen and therefore unfit to hold public office,” he said.
In the litigation, Prof Moyo cited Caesar Zvayi (The Herald editor), Brian Chitemba (The Sunday Mail investigations editor), Mabasa Sasa (The Sunday Mail editor), Limukani Ncube (The Sunday News editor), Lloyd Gumbo and Zvamaida Murwira (both The Herald senior reporters), Innocent Madonko (The Chronicle editor) and Zimpapers, as respondents.