$17m WikiLeaks silencer

HARARE - A muti-million dollar lawsuit by ex-government supplier Raymond Chamba on Harare businessman Fred Mtandah has been viewed as a pre-emptive strike to manage a potential fallout over highly-sensitive Wikileaks cables that are due to be released soon.

The whimsical $17 million demand also comes as Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Happyton Bonyongwe has won a $10 million lawsuit against Africa Consolidated Resources founder Andrew Cranswick over the highly-charged, and political American cables. However, the latter has launched an appeal.

In a February 1 criminal defamation lawsuit, the former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) consultant says Mtandah made false allegations about him — bordering on larceny and large-scale thieving at the apex bank – to American diplomats, and which information was furtively obtained.

“Our client advises us that you surreptitiously invited a foreign intelligence operative in the said meeting (October 16, 2008). The Wikileaks report of events and meeting… are grossly factually inaccurate, purely fabricated to assail, impugn, malign and sully, soil our client and his business reputation, and standing notwithstanding the true nature of events in this country,” Chamba’s lawyers said, suggesting further that the ex-CAPS Holdings Limited chairman was an agent of foreign and hostile governments.

“To the extent that hostile governments regularly publish, and sponsor nefarious reportage on the political and economic circumstances of Zimbabwe is now near normal… but to the end that any person… was readily used to give gratis and meaning to the same agenda is patently wilfully defamatory, and criminally malicious,” they added.

While Chamba’s complaint arises from an October 21, 2008 dispatch about the alleged plunder and profligacy at the RBZ, many a Zanu PF-aligned individual have been squirming ever since juicy titbits about their nefarious meetings with western diplomats were exposed by Wikileaks.

And with the prospect of newer cables being released soon, several of President Robert Mugabe’s praise-singers and high-ranking officials are sweating – just as the issue has caused great consternation in the ex-majority party.

In the private conversations – such as the one under scrutiny and penned by former Washington ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee – many of the octogenarian leader’s trusted lieutenants and politicians were quite disparaging about his personal conduct, and economic stewardship of the country over the past 30 years.

And as Julian Assange’s whistle-blowing website is expected to haunt Zimbabwean politicians, and other well-connected individuals again, Chamba has not only moved to draw blood from those he feels entrapped him, but indulge in a blame game that has also sucked in several other government officials.

In his court papers, the controversial trader and politician also says Mtandah criminally mischaracterised government’s efforts to stabilise a stricken economy and defend it from other “harmful elements to the national interest”.

“Our client is of the view that you (Mtandah) directly benefited from soiling his business and personal image through these malicious fabrications,” the appellant’s lawyers James Makiya Legal Practitioners said.

In the process, the litigant also made very damaging allegations about the FCM Motors (FCM) owner and bordering on espionage, and being a double agent in intelligence circles.

“Our client is of the view that the reports contained in the cited Wikileaks cable are a criminal product of your construction and misconstruction of normal, and business interactions to serve your external intelligence gathering appetites, and instincts,” Chamba’s lawyers said.

As such, Chamba – who worked with the Zimbabwe Central Bank around its Basic Commodities Supply Side Intervention scheme – is seeking nearly $20 million from the ex-Lobels Holdings shareholder.

His claim on Mtandah – an equally controversial character and businessman – arises from the fact that the latter owns Volkswagen dealer FCM, Fredex and other undisclosed interests.

Contacted for comment recently, Mtandah he said he had not even been served with the Chamba letter of demand and, therefore, unaware of the former’s demands.

“I understand he (Chamba) is showing the letter to the media in order to seek publicity. He is being used by someone to fight me politically (although) he once approached me to fund his presidential campaign, and l refused,” he said.

“He also wanted me to rent a house for him and l turned him down, just as he wanted me to be a referee for his business deals. Having refused all this, l see why he is now making all these silly allegations and tell him that he is a monkey,” the former Zipra fighter and Harare businessman said.

Even, though, the Mtandah-Chamba spat has played out to be a minuscule clash between two highly-ambitious people, the war has also taken factional and political undertones in Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

On his part, Mtandah has not only taken the rap for being a one-time chairman of a Zimbabwe-United States business lobby group, but also fighting for the recognition of ex-ZAPU leaders and their rights in the form of a return of the once-dominant liberation movement’s assets seized in the 1980s, analysts say.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.