HARARE – Chief Justice Luke Malaba has dismissed an appeal by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko challenging the High Court ruling dismissing his bid for rescission of judgment in his staggering $50 million defamation claim against Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) — the publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post.
Justice Malaba left in place a decision by a lower court upholding ANZ’s contention that he used the wrong practice in seeking to retract a previous ruling, which had also gone against him.
This is the second time the vice president has lost the suit against ANZ at the High Court.
ANZ lawyer Alec Muchadehama argued in the Supreme Court that Mphoko’s notice of appeal did not meet the requirements of a proper notice in terms of the rules of the apex court. Mphoko’s lawyers spurned the advice.
At the hearing of the matter in the Supreme Court on Tuesday before Chief Justice Malaba, Mphoko’s lawyers conceded that their client’s notice of appeal was defective. They then withdrew their appeal.
“Because they had failed to heed our advices, they were ordered to pay the costs of the aborted appeal,” Muchadehama told the Daily News.
“This means that for now, Mphoko’s appeal is not before the courts and his outrageous defamation damages of $50 million have temporarily fallen away.
“In terms of the rules, Mphoko may file an application for extension of time within which to file an appeal and for condonation of late noting of an appeal. If he does so, we will be advised.”
Respondents in this case were former ANZ group editor Stanley Gama, chief writer Fungi Kwaramba, ANZ and Printco.
Mphoko’s lawsuit followed a June 5, 2015 Daily News article which the VP took exception to, and which was based on an interview that the newspaper had with firebrand former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda.
In the story, Sibanda claimed that Mphoko had sold out during the liberation struggle when he allegedly diverted weapons meant for the late Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu to Zanu — a move that Sibanda further claimed could have led to the needless deaths of thousands of people.
High Court judge Joseph Musakwa dismissed Mphoko’s lawsuit following an application by Muchadehama to have the case thrown out, after the VP failed to attend the pre-trial conference in person — choosing instead to send an official from his office, Themba Ndlovu, to represent him.
But Mphoko claimed that his absence was necessitated by the fact that he was attending to State business, adding that in any event his non-presence was justified because he had sent his representative.
However, Muchadehama asserted that Ndlovu was “a stranger” to the proceedings and could thus not have represented Mphoko.
Mphoko then appealed to the top court, culminating in Tuesday’s judgment. – Daily News