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Court judge sues Bennett for defamation
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
September 27, 2010
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High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu have issued summons against
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Treasurer and Deputy Agriculture
Minister-Designate Senator Roy Bennett claiming US$1 million in
damages for defamation.
The lawyers from Chikumbirike
and Associates Legal Practitioners filed the summons at the High
Court on Friday 24 September, 2010.
The lawyers allege that
the damages resulted from wrongful and defamatory words which were
uttered by Senator Bennett during an interview with a reporter from
The Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom, which he granted on
or around 9 May 2010, before Justice Bhunu delivered his judgment
acquitting the former Chimanimani legislator.
lawyers say the remarks were published on 24 May 2010 by an internet-based
publication, the Zimbabwe Guardian Newspaper, which they claim enjoys
wide distribution on account of being available on the internet
free of charge.
Senator Bennett is alleged
to have stated that: "To know that the people that are doing
it will stop at absolutely nothing to achieve their ends and that
there is a selective application of the rule of law, that the judiciary
is totally compromised, that the very judge that's trying
me is the owner of a farm that he's been given through political
patronage, that all the appointments have been done through the
Ministry of Justice on a political basis . . . basically I should
expect no mercy and fear for the worst".
The High Court judge's
lawyers, in the Plaintiff's Declaration, argue that Senator
Bennett's remarks or statements were "wrongful and defamatory
of the plaintiff [Justice Bhunu] in that they were intended to convey
and were understood by the readers of the Guardian Newspaper to
mean that the plaintiff was not a fit and proper person to be a
judge of this honourable court [High Court] and to preside over
the trial of the defendant [Bennett]."
The lawyers claim that
Senator Bennett's statements imputed that Justice Bhunu was
"a conscious and willing tool" who was "deliberately
selected to preside over the defendant's [Bennett's]
trial by persons that will stop at absolutely nothing to achieve
their ends by a selective application of the rule of law".
The defamation is further
alleged to have occurred in that Senator Bennett's remarks
intended to convey and were understood by the readers of the Guardian
Newspaper to mean that "the plaintiff's integrity as
a judge and to preside over the defendant's trial [was] totally
compromised by virtue of the fact that his appointment was not based
on merit but political patronage and connections. This lack of judicial
integrity having been achieved by the allocation of a farm through
the Land Reform Programme"
High Court Judge Justice
Bhunu acquitted Senator Roy Bennett on Monday 10 May 2010 after
ruling that the State's prosecution team, led by Attorney
General (AG) Johannes Tomana, had failed to establish a prima facie
case against the former Chimanimani Member of Parliament.
appealed against Justice Bhunu's decision to acquit Bennett.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku recently reserved judgment after
hearing submissions from both the State and Bennett's lawyers
in relation to the appeal.
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