Court orders Journo to pay $7000

The High Court has ordered a Zimbabwean newspaper and a journalist to pay $7 000 for defaming a former ZANU PF legislator who sued the Masvingo Mirror last year.

Colonel Claudius Makova, who once served as a ZANU PF Member of Parliament for Bikita West sued the popular Masvingo Mirror for $100 000 published in 2008 titled: “Big war in Bikita”.

The story referred to Makova's alleged interests in Bikita Minerals and that he was also allegedly behind certain acts of violence.

The former legislator protested that the story published by the newspaper had damaged his reputation politically and within the general readership of the newspaper in the Masvingo province.

In his ruling which was delivered recently Justice Susan Mavangira ordered the publishers of the newspaper, its editor, former reporter Golden Maunganidze, who allegedly wrote the story and Walter Mutsauri, who allegedly contributed to the publication of the defamatory story and who was quoted in the story to pay $7 000 in damages to Makova.

Justice Mavangira ruled that the newspaper had portrayed Makova as morally bankrupt, a criminal and an unruly person.

“In this case the court is not dealing with a petty political dispute. This is a matter involving defamation of a politician by a newspaper. Furthermore, although the plaintiff is a politician and a public figure whose life is necessarily in the public domain and opens to criticism, the law does not divest him of protection against harm to dignity and reputation.

“He is entitled to protection and this factor must also be considered in the assessment of the award that the court will grant in his favour….He is infact portrayed as a menace to the district of Bikita and also as a disgrace to his political party,” reads part of Justice Mavangira’s ruling.

In his application Makova argued that the defamatory substance within the story lay in the reference to him as stupid and greedy. It was the legislator’s contention that the story portrayed him as a terrorist on account of the fact that the article alleged he was terrorising mine workers.

In their defence, the Masvingo Mirror had maintained that the story against Makova was fair and balanced while Maunganidze argued that he had given the former legislator an opportunity to comment on the material allegations at the relevant time.

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