Vincent Kahiya / Shakeman Mugari
IN a case likely to cause a major stir within the ranks of Zanu PF, Manicaland party stalwart Kumbirai Kangai is suing Mashonaland West party chairman Ph
ilip Chiyangwa for $100 million for claiming that the former minister was illegally exporting sugar.
The defamation suit stems from press reports in 2000 which quoted Chiyangwa, in his capacity as National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) chairman, as saying the government had been prejudiced of up to $500 million because of illegal exports of sugar facilitated by permits issued by Kangai, who was then Agriculture minister.
Party insiders this week said the Zanu PF leadership was not amused by Chiyangwa’s use of the NECF to arrest senior government officials on charges of corruption in 2000.
“It’s payback time and Chiyangwa should stand up to defend not only his political integrity but also that of the NECF anti-corruption taskforce,” a party official said this week.
Chiyangwa in 2000 also alleged that Kangai was involved in siphoning $228 million from the Grain Marketing Board resulting in the arrest of the former minister on fraud and corruption charges. Kangai has since been acquitted of the charge. No formal charges have been laid against Kangai in the illegal sugar exports case.
Kangai’s lawyer, Jonathan Sam-kange of Byron & Venturas, last October wrote to Chiyangwa indicating the former Agriculture minister’s intention to sue for damages.
“You falsely and maliciously, with the intention of defaming our client, claimed that the NECF was investigating the circumstances under which permits to export sugar were issued by the Minister of Agriculture, alleging that the tender process was abused to benefit certain government officials,” the letter said.
“Our client’s reputation was severely impaired by the above defamatory allegations in view of the fact that he has been a minister and a member of parliament for the past 22 years,” it said.
Chiyangwa did not respond to the letter of demand and Samkange said he would proceeds to issue summons.
Contacted this week, Chiyangwa said he was aware of the lawsuit.
“You are the third journalist in two years to phone me on such a case. There has been talk to that effect. I will respond when the papers are served on me,” he said.
“I might be prepared to take action but without papers the case is just a rumour. How can I prepare for a case that has to been put to me?” he said
Kangai’s was the first case since Independence in which a senior Zanu PF official and government minister stood trial for corruption. Kangai was one of the eight founding members of Dare reChimurenga, Zanu’s supreme council formed in 1973 to spearhead the liberation war.