HARARE – Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) has been shopped to Twitter over bigoted and racist comments made on the social media platform on February 17.
The comments were made in a 39-part rant in which he targeted executives of fast food giant, Innscor Africa Limited, whom he accused of exploiting black people and running a “cartel”.
Mliswa aimed most of his invectives at Innscor co-founders Mike Fowler and Zinona ‘Zed’ Koudounaris whom he claimed were racist, before sharpening his attacks on Innscor board chairman, Addington Bexley Chinake, whom he described as a “blue-eyed coconut for the whites.”
Now, Chinake’s United Kingdom-based lawyers have written to Twitter reporting Mliswa’s comments, including his claim that the prominent commercial lawyer excelled in the courtroom only when facing “homosexual judges”.
“We consider that the tweets… contain racial slurs and perpetuate a racist trope of a black African who has personally benefited from the disenfranchisement and exploitation of other black people by white Africans and Asian Africans,” the lawyers said in a February 18 letter to Twitter’s legal department, seen by ZimLive.
The lawyers, Hill Dickinson, added that “the chain of tweets also make wide ranging generalised slurs against white and Asian Africans, which are particularly sensitive in a country which has historically experiences serious unrest and violence along racial lines.”
In particular, the lawyers noted that Mliswa’s claim that Chinake “backs for both” – which reads much like the English phrase ‘bat for both sides’ meaning being bi-sexual – exposed Chinake to harm.
“Whilst our client is not a homosexual, the suggestion that our client is a homosexual is a serious one in Zimbabwe, where homosexual acts between men are illegal and violence against gay men is prevalent. This allegation alone, is tantamount to an incitement to violence against him,” the lawyers wrote.
“Furthermore, we consider that the chain of allegations perpetuates a discriminatory trope that homosexuals as a group are engaged in corruption, favouring only people of the same orientation who bestow them with sexual favours.”
The lawyers drew Twitter’s attention to its terms and conditions which in part say the United States company “will review and take enforcement action against accounts that target an individual, group of people, or a protected category with any of the following behaviour… violent threats; abusive slurs, epithets, racist, or sexist tropes; abusive content that reduces someone to less than human and content that incites fear.”
Chinake’s lawyers said the publication of much of the content also constituted a criminal offence in Zimbabwe, falling foul of section 88 of the Zimbabwe Postal and Telecommunications Act [Chapter 12:05] which says it is an imprisonable offence to send offensive or threatening communications to another person.
“We note for completeness that the Tweets also contained a large number of other highly defamatory statements, suggesting that our client is dishonest, involved in bribery, uses threats of violence, committed domestic violence and was involved in the death of a married woman he was involved in a personal relationship with,” the lawyers went on.
“Our client denies all of these allegations in the strongest terms, and is investigating appropriate legal action in respect of them.”
Hill Dickinson, an international commercial law firm headquartered in Liverpool, implored Twitter to “remove the offending Tweets and permanently ban the handle @TembaMliswa.”
The lawyers added: “Failing to do so will only facilitate the further spread of hateful and illegal content. Given the potential for these Tweets to lead of violence, we consider that this is an issue of the utmost urgency and action should be taken immediately.
“In the event that you fail to act in accordance with your own terms and the laws of the relevant jurisdictions, our client reserves his rights against you as publisher and host of the Tweets complained of.”
Mliswa’s rants at Innscor executives came after he says he took several employees of Breckridge Investments, a gold mining concern running Pickstone Mine in Chegutu, to meet with Fowler and Innscor legal adviser, Zweli Lunga, over “racism and verbal abuse issues perpetrated by senior management by the likes of Joseph Crnkovic (sic).”
Mliswa, who said he was acting in his capacity as an MP, tweeted that “Zweli adamantly protected the paymasters tooth and nail; Fowler was unrepentant.”
“Shame on blacks being used by whites to oppress their own,” he tweeted, before accusing Chinake of personally calling the employees who went with him to the meeting to harass them.
He also made a wide ranging attack on Innscor, accusing the company of being a “national security threat” because of its vast portfolio of business interests.
“Which sector is Innscor not involved in? They control maize milling; procurement; they’re involved in mining; the tourism and hospitality sectors; ostrich farming… they’ve been in it for decades,” he charged.
“Innscor own National Foods and Probrands, they control bread through Bakers Inn. This shouldn’t have been allowed by the Zimbabwe Competition and Tariffs Commission.” – ZimLive