Mahere revises claim of defamation damages against Gappah

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HARARE,— Fadzayi Mahere, lawyer and opposition politician, has reduced her damages claim from US$1 million to US$50,000 in her defamation lawsuit against author Petina Gappah.

Although the notice to amend the claim was not read in court, Mahere is proceeding with the case despite Gappah’s recent retraction of her claims and a public apology.

Last week, Gappah issued a statement retracting her allegations against Mahere and offered to donate to a charity of Mahere’s choice.

In her submissions before Justice Jacob Mafusire, Mahere argued that Gappah’s apology and retraction were insincere and that Gappah continued to stand by her defamatory statements.

“This is a continuation of a pattern of defamation against myself, my father, and my family,” Mahere stated, emphasizing that Gappah’s actions show a persistent intent to harm her reputation.

Mahere highlighted the lasting impact of Gappah’s statements, noting that they remain vivid in people’s minds even after six years.

Gappah countered, arguing that Mahere introduced her father into the case, making it fair to address related questions. She also claimed that Mahere’s colleague, David Coltart, had made similar allegations against Mahere’s father. Mahere’s lawyer objected, calling these points irrelevant to the proceedings.

Gappah further argued that her statements did not harm Mahere’s career or activism, pointing to Mahere’s subsequent appointments and opportunities. She contended that her widely circulated apology and retraction should mitigate any damage caused.

Justice Mafusire adjourned the matter indefinitely after granting the amendment and hearing submissions from both parties. Gappah is to file her closing submissions on June 17, while Mahere, represented by Nokhuthula Moyo, will file hers on July 2, 2024.

Mahere’s lawsuit against Gappah stems from allegations that Gappah assisted Mahere with her Cambridge essay and accused her of securing university placements through her father’s influence. Gappah also alleged that Mahere attempted to seduce the father of her child.