Former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo has challenged vice president Constantino Chiwenga’s $5 million defamation suit against him, saying the words that he said do not amount to insult and that the former army boss is seeking untold riches by making an excessive claim.
In the matter heard yesterday before High Court judges Lavender Makoni and Jacob Manzunzu, Moyo, through his lawyer Chris Mhike, took exception to the claim.
Chiwenga is suing Moyo over a press statement he issued in July last year, insinuating that the former military boss did not earn his doctorate degree with the University of KwaZulu Natal but instead, someone authored the thesis on his behalf in fulfilment of the programme.
“Defendant (Moyo) has taken an exception to the plaintiff’s (Chiwenga) summons and declaration. In the present case, normal intelligent readers who knew at the material time about plaintiff’s time as a PhD student, knew about the integrity of the University of KwaZulu Natal, would not have regarded defendant’s press statement as defamatory.
“In the circumstances, plaintiff is not only being oversensitive and his claim is exorbitantly high to the extent that one might conclude that he is being over greedy as well.
“Indeed, given the grossly excessive claim, it is likely that it is the dream of untold riches that has driven plaintiff to read something into the press statement that does not exist,” Moyo said.
He said the summons and declaration are vague and embarrassing, as the words in the press statement were capable of more than one meaning.
Moyo further demanded the dismissal of Chiwenga’s claim.
Arguing in court yesterday, Moyo’s lawyer, Mhike, said Chiwenga had failed in his application to bring out what exactly he is alleging to be untrue from the statement by his client.
He said Chiwenga was used to being a commander of the army, who gave orders to his subordinates and was easily offended by being asked by Moyo on who actually wrote his PhD.
Part of Moyo’s statement, which Chiwenga deemed defamatory was as follows: “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. (staying quiet is noble) #Handeitione.”
Chiwenga, through his lawyer Brian Hungwe, insisted his claim was well-founded and must proceed to be heard on substance.
He said the damage being sought relates to an untrue statement made by Moyo. He said the statement by Moyo had the effect of portraying his client as an academic impersonator.
Hungwe said by questioning the person who really wrote Chiwenga’s PhD, Moyo “is trying to put an imputation that another person other than the plaintiff wrote the PhD.”
According to his summons, Chiwenga said Moyo issued a statement which was published on various media platforms, portraying him as a dishonesty person who cheated to get the PhD qualification.
“The words in the context of the article, are wrongful, and defamatory per se of the plaintiff in that they were intended and understood by readers to mean that the plaintiff lacks integrity, is dishonesty, deceitful, and fraudulent in that he never made a contribution towards his post-graduate doctorate studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and that another person wrote the thesis as a fulfilment to his doctoral studies.
“Apart from the defamatory statement, was an intention to convey an innuendo that the plaintiff is in fact, dishonesty, deceitful and given the fraudulent behaviour, that his academic post-graduate Doctorate in Philosophy qualification from the University of KwaZulu-Natal is an academic fraud,” he said.
The judges yesterday reserved ruling in the matter to determine on Moyo’s exception arguments.