Mirror/Mandaza hearing moved to Tuesday

HIGH Court judge, Justice Bharat Patel, yesterday postponed to Tuesday a hearing into Zimbabwe Mirror Newspapers Group and editor-in-chief Ibbo Mandaza’s controversial suspension.



tica, sans-serif”>Patel delayed hearing the matter after defence lawyer Francis Chirimuuta asked for postponement, saying he had not finished preparing his opposing papers.


Mandaza’s attorney, Joseph Mandizha, said yesterday the case would now proceed next week because Chirimuuta asked for more time to prepare his papers.


“The case has been postponed to Tuesday because the respondents’ lawyer (Chirimuuta) asked for more time to file his papers,” Mandizha said.

“What happened was that on Monday he was given until Wednesday to respond to our heads of argument but he was unable to do so and yesterday he had to ask for more time.”


The judge is expected on Tuesday to deal with Mandaza’s suspension first and make a ruling on that part of the case because he said on Monday the case was urgent.


Mandaza had returned to court yesterday to intensify his fight against suspension and to retain control of the media house’s newspapers taken over by the country’s state security agency.


This followed an initial court hearing on Monday on the case which has been in the courts since the Mirror boss was suspended in October.

Mandaza has been struggling since then to regain control of the Mirror group, publishers of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, taken over by the Central Intelligence Organsiation (CIO) using public funds. He founded the company in 1997 before the CIO bought in between 2002 and 2004.


The CIO also reportedly has interests in the business weekly, the Financial Gazette, and other media outlets including news websites, a production house, and influences in state-owned media newsrooms.


There have been reports that the CIO was also behind the closure of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe titles – Daily News and Daily News on Sunday – as well as the Tribune and Weekly Times.


The CIO’s involvement in the media was widely seen as an attempt to further undermine the country’s small but vibrant private press for its forthright criticism of the government.


Patel was for the first time expected to hear Mandaza’s case on merits. He was also expected to deal with Mandaza’s suspension and provide interim relief. The judge was further expected to deal with the issues of the Mirror’s ownership structure and related matters.


While the CIO has taken over the Mirror papers, Mandaza still argues he is the legal owner and has proposed a way of selling or re-selling the papers to the intelligence service. But the CIO has ignored his proposal and established control of the publications.


Patel on Monday ruled that the disputed Mirror board’s summoning of Mandaza to appear before a disciplinary committee the same day was null and void and issued a court order against it.


The Mirror board, chaired by Jonathan Kadzura, last week summoned Mandaza to a disciplinary hearing, citing allegations of fraud, but other board members loyal to Mandaza refused to attend.


Patel warned if Kadzura and his associates proceeded with their hearing it would be in contempt of court.


Kadzura alleged in a letter to Mandaza last week that the reason why the former boss was suspended was that he had mishandled company finances.

Mandaza’s lawyer, Mandizha, has dismissed the allegations as false and contrived.


Arbitration on the matter failed to proceed on Monday last week after the chairman of the panel, former chief justice Anthony Gubbay, and his two colleagues, ex-Institute of Chartered Accountants president David Vincent and chairman of the Institute of Directors Much Masunda, agreed they had no jurisdiction to hear the case. – Staff Writer.

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