Tsvangirai loses suit by default

A BULAWAYO High Court judge has passed a default judgement against leader of the fractured Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, in a case where he was being sued for a total of $80 million by four members of a rival group in the party over

defamation allegations.


The default judgement was passed two weeks ago after Tsvangirai failed to file opposing papers in the suit filed by his former colleagues in the united MDC last year.


High Court judge, Justice Maphios Cheda, granted the default judgement to Welshman Ncube, Gibson Sibanda, Fletcher Dulini Ncube and Paul Themba Nyathi.


Each of the applicants is demanding $20 million from Tsvangirai in defamation charges.


Tsvangirai was taken to court by the four following the publication of a story in the Star, a South African newspaper, where Tsvangirai is alleged to have uttered statements the plaintiffs say were defamatory of them.


Gift Chimanikire, who was one of the applicants in the case, withdrew his claim after he defected to the Tsvangirai camp.


Court papers say Tsvangirai when addressing diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, after the split in the main opposition party, alleged that the five leaders of the pro-senate faction were plotting with the Mugabe regime to eliminate him.


“A minority in leadership positions tired of the democratic struggle are ready to strike a diabolical deal with Zanu PF. Mercenaries peddling selfish interests,” the court documents on Tsvangirai’s alleged statements say.


“They wanted to weaken the MDC and give themselves new credentials to enhance their political understanding with Zanu PF. They participated in the senatorial elections in order to please Zanu PF as their partners.


“They were involved in illegal activities trying to harm and physically eliminate the defendant (Tsvangirai).”


Tsvangirai was represented in the case by Tendai Biti of Honey & Blanckenberg. Contacted to comment on why his team did not file opposing papers on the matter, Biti said the problem arose after their corresponding lawyers in Bulawayo did not relay documents to them on time.


“We are using corresponding lawyers in the case and at one time they did not send us some papers on time and that is the reason we lost our defence but we are negotiating with the other team so that we can have our defence back,” Biti said.


The lawyer representing the four pro-senate MDC leaders, Nicholas Mathonsi of Coghlan & Welsh legal practitioners confirmed that Tsvangirai’s team had not filed opposing papers and said he was close to wrapping up the case.


“There is no way that Tsvangirai can successfully appeal without our co-operation. We are actually on the verge of winning that case on a technicality although there is still some ground to be covered,” said Mathonsi.


A default judgement is passed when one of the parties in a case fails to appear in court or is served with summons and fails to indicate interest in defending the case within the stipulated number of days.


If he or she indicates that he/she is willing to defend and then delays to give a detailed response then the other party can apply for a default judgement.


The case will resume on Thursday and will proceed without further notice to Tsvangirai and his lawyers. — Staff Writer.