Fugitive former Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo is now backtracking on his defamatory utterances accusing Vice President General Constantino Dominic Guveya Nyikadzino Chiwenga (Retired) of academic fraud. Prof Moyo, last year, issued a Press statement insinuating that VP Chiwenga did not earn his Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Kwazulu Natal.
He alleged that someone other than the VP authored the thesis on his behalf. However, faced with a $5 million defamation suit, the beleaguered politician climbed down from his earlier statement, arguing that the message was capable of communicating more than one meaning.
Part of the statement deemed defamatory reads: “Finally, I’m happy that Chiwenga wants pre-and post-independence disclosures about who was who, who did what and so forth. That’s good. Meanwhile, I take that to mean he wants the disclosure of who contributed what to his doctorate and who really wrote his KZN PhD. Again, the Shona wisdom that kunyarara kurinani pane kutaura, applies. #Handeitione.”
Prof Moyo, through his lawyers Artherstone & Cook Legal Practitioners, filed a notice of exception at the High Court on January 4 this year. In the exception application, Prof Moyo’s lawyers want the court to strike down the claim with costs on the basis that his statement meant something else.
“The plaintiff’s summons and declaration are vague and embarrassing because the words of the press statement ascribed to the defendant are capable of more than one meaning and lack the averments necessary to sustain a claim of defamation . . .” reads the application. On behalf of the VP, Advocate Brian Hungwe counter-argued that Prof Moyo’s statement clearly defamed the highly decorated General and that Prof Moyo should face the music.
“There is nothing vague or embarrassing about them and the instituted defamation claim can be sustained . . . “The words, in their plain ordinary meaning, suggest that plaintiff never wrote his Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of KwaZulu Natal. Subsequent damaging newspaper and social media articles whose interpretation of the statement suggests the defamatory nature of the words attest to this,” argued Adv Hungwe.
Adv Hungwe is being instructed by Mr Wilson Manase and Mr Wellington Pasipanodya of Manase and Manase Legal Practitioners. VP Chiwenga wants the exception to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale. Prof Moyo issued the statement on July 9 and it was published on various media platforms, tarnishing the VP as a dishonest person who cheated to get the PhD qualification.
The VP, through his lawyers, argues that the statement was highly defamatory of him and he is entitled to the damages. The lawyers argued that the words were wrongful and that the minister only sought to soil the decorated war hero’s good name. The press statement appeared in daily and weekly newspapers, including other media platforms that are widely read the world over. The contents of the statement were quoted and published in The Herald, Chronicle, NewZimbabwe, ZimEye, The Chronicle and various social media platforms.