PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s press secretary George Charamba has threatened to set the police on the Zimbabwe Independent and to take legal action over a story linking him to Zanu PF’s Tsholotsho succession scramble.
After angrily r
efusing to be interviewed, Charamba reacted later with a letter from his lawyers saying he was bringing in the police on the issue and would sue for damages unless a retraction was issued of a story published last week saying he was involved in the Tsholotsho saga.
“I no longer talk to you and you must never phone me again,” Charamba said when contacted for comment yesterday morning. Efforts to contact him later failed. He eventually reacted with a letter from his lawyers threatening to sue the Independent for $15 billion for alleged defamation.
Charamba demanded a retraction of the story which said he was part of the Tsholotsho saga. He denied drafting a speech for prominent Zanu PF politician Emmerson Mnangagwa who was reportedly the leader of one of the Zanu PF factions involved in a battle for supremacy with a camp led by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru.
Charamba said he had never met Mnangagwa to discuss the succession issue.
“He (Charamba) further denies hiring a plane for the Tsholotsho meeting or drafting any speech for Honourable Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa meant to further the alleged succession battle,” the letter says.
“Our client has also made a report to the police who are investigating the matter for possible prosecution for crimen injuria (unlawful impairing of someone’s reputation).”
The 2004 political drama, over which Mugabe has continued to show signs of continued anger, involved a meeting by six Zanu PF provincial chairmen at Dinyane High School in Tsholotsho which reportedly sought to block Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s ascendancy.
Despite Charamba’s denial, there have been numerous media reports raising the issues he now seeks to refute. The government-controlled Chronicle newspaper on December 1, 2004, for instance, carried a front-page story alleging Charamba had hired an aircraft for the trip to Tsholotsho through his department. He did not publicly deny the report.
Charamba’s authorship of Mnangagwa’s speech was first revealed by his former boss Jonathan Moyo writing in the Independent on December 23 last year.
“It is common cause among those who know what happened that Charamba, Mugabe’s press secretary, actually drafted Mnangagwa’s speech that was delivered by (Justice minister Patrick) Chinamasa at Dinyane School on November 18, 2004,” Moyo wrote. “I still have the original copy of Charamba’s draft speech with his handwritten cover note attached.”
Charamba further denied he had clashed with ZBC workers. A letter in the possession of the Independent, titled Unwarranted Victimisation, written by ZBC national productions head, Douglas Dhliwayo, to Charamba on June 22 last year shows he had indeed clashed with certain people.
“Following your telephone conversation in which you accused me of selling you out to Cdes Webster Shamu, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele and other Zanu PF senior officials we were working with during the parliamentary elections publicity campaign, may I humbly state it is very unfortunate that you would think that way,” Dhliwayo wrote.
“You say your reason for punishing me is because I have been back-stabbing you in order to canvass for favours from ministers Shamu and Chinamasa, Gula-Ndebele, Ephraim Masawi and Cde Nathan Shamuyarira resulting in you not getting a ministerial post.”
Dhliwayo went further: “I think your statements were uncalled for when you said I was free to go and report to Cde Shamu and his colleagues that my plot with them backfired…I wonder why you were interested in the ministerial post if it was useless as you claim the Cdes to be.”