Kudos for Justice Mafusire

HARARE - Justice Joseph Mafusire is to be commended for throwing out the $5 million defamation lawsuit that was recently filed in the High Court by Mudzi South legislator Jonathan Samukange against losing Zanu PF candidate Eric Navaya.

Samukange had launched the court action alleging that Navaya had falsely, maliciously and repeatedly labelled him an MDC candidate during the heated campaign period leading to the much-contested July 31 national polls. Navaya went on to lose the seat to Samukange, who ran as an independent candidate following his disqualification from standing as a Zanu PF candidate.

We hold no brief for either Navaya or Zanu PF — and we have nothing personal against the indefatigable Samukange.

In addition, the matter is not necessarily dead and buried as Samukange may well take up the case on appeal, which is his right.

However, this does not detract from the general point that desperately begs to be made here, which is that there is an irritating and irrational tendency of late by politicians and other prominent personalities in our society to claim defamation on fairly flimsy grounds — be it from the media or other fellow Zimbabweans — with no prospects whatsoever of winning such legal action.

Not only does this tendency further clog and waste time for our already beleaguered and over-stretched courts, it has the potential to erode our collective human rights in the long run when some among us shout wolf needlessly.

This is the reason why Justice Mafusire’s ruling must be applauded by all right-thinking Zimbabweans, because it is time that the courts robustly discouraged and slapped down this growing tendency.

Samukange argued in his papers that Navaya’s alleged utterances were damaging to his political and social reputation as he had never been a member of any other political party, other than Zanu PF.

In addition, he said, the MDC was viewed and understood to be an agent of imperialism and therefore an enemy of the people of Zimbabwe.

In his ruling, Justice Mafusire dismissed the unopposed case, reasoning rightly that the alleged utterances by Navaya did not, in themselves, amount to defamation.

“In politics people trade insults and the court does not feel that the cause of action was found in the case. Being called an MDC candidate cannot be viewed as defamatory and I dismiss the claim,” Justice Mafusire said.

We can only say well argued Your Honour.

At the Daily News, just as is the case across much of the private media, we have dealt with our fair share of these kinds of frivolous, if not vexatious lawsuits, many of which are predictably withdrawn just before they come up for trial.

Among the legion of these time-wasting litigants who confuse factual reporting and fair comment for defamation have been politicians, businessmen and even preachers of The Word; none of whom, revealingly, has ever been successful in court against this newspaper, despite initially demanding ridiculous sums of silly money from us — some as high as $50 million for a single case in a nation where the minimum wage is as low as $50 a month!

Which all leaves one wondering why many of these lawsuits are launched in the first place!

Comments (2)

I concur with the writer's conclusion on Justice Mafusire's ruling on lawyer Samukange's case against politician Navaya. I agree with the writer's serious observation about politicians' propensity for wasting the time of courts on ..."frivolous, if not vexatious lawsuits, many of which are predictably withdrawn just before they come up for trial." The best/worst example was the case with Former Prime Minister Tsvangirai's presidential result challenge and this will also be fate of the frivolous cases of the losing MDC-T parliamentary candidates. The candidates will lose the cases and will pay court costs.

Rabison Nyundo (THE HAMMER) - 6 September 2013

For once I agree with Rabison. But he could also add one Jonathan Moyo to the list of sour litigants!

Magagula - 6 September 2013

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.