FORMER Administrative Court president Michael Majuru has accused Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa of interference in the protracted legal wrangle over the closure of the Daily News and Daily N
ews on Sunday.
Majuru, who fled to South Africa last year after being hounded by state security agents and politicians, claimed Chinamasa intervened when he was dealing with the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe case.
He said the minister put him under pressure to rule against the Daily News and its sister paper because they “promoted British interests”.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Chinamasa said he was preparing an appropriate response to Majuru’s claims but said it would not be ready by the time of going to press. The minister threatened to sue the Zimbabwe Independent over Majuru’s story.
“I thought I should just remind you that it is now a year after he (Majuru) resigned,” Chinamasa said. “You should ask yourself why he is saying this after a year. I do not know what his motive is but you should be prepared to be sued if you publish the story.”
Majuru’s claims have been carried in the South African media. Chinamasa said he had seen the reports.
In a statement sent to the Independent yesterday, Majuru said Chinamasa tried to dragoon him into making a ruling in favour of the Media and Information Commission (MIC).
He also claimed prominent businessman Enock Kamushinda offered him a farm to influence him to rule against the ANZ.
Majuru said Chinamasa en-tered the fray after the ANZ had appealed to the Administrative Court against the MIC’s refusal to issue the newspaper group with a licence. This followed a Supreme Court ruling which ordered ANZ to first seek registration before its constitutional challenge against the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act could be heard.
“Chinamasa at this point called a fellow judge that I was working with to his offices. He instructed my colleague on the bench that the application for an urgent appeal hearing was to be refused and that the appeal should only be heard towards the end of January or in early February,” Majuru said.
“The reasons given by Chinamasa were that the paper (Daily News) was British-funded and therefore promoting British interests.”
Majuru said Chinamasa also claimed the Daily News would interfere with, and therefore jeopardise, ongoing talks between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which were said to have reached a “delicate stage”.
“As proof of the delicate stage the talks had reached, the minister showed this fellow judge documents on some of the constitutional amendments allegedly agreed upon between the ruling party and the members of the opposition aforesaid,” Majuru said.
“The instructions of the minister were duly conveyed to me by my fellow judge. As you will recall, I presided over the application for an urgent appeal and granted it, in spite of the pressure from the minister.”
Majuru said Kamushinda, who was chairman of Metropolitan Bank and Zimpapers, “invited” me to his offices through an intelligence officer. He said Kamushinda promised him a farm if he ruled against the ANZ, saying other judges had already been given land. But Majuru said he refused.
“On a Thursday evening at about 9pm when I was still in the office writing the judgement, minister Chinamasa phoned me from Bulawayo where he was attending a pre-budget seminar,” Majuru recalled.
“He demanded to know what my decision was going to be in the matter. He also insisted on knowing whether my decision was not ‘going to get me into trouble’.”
Majuru said he advised Chinamasa that he was almost through with his ruling which would go against the MIC. He said Chinamasa took him to task over the issue, ordering him to give his reasons for the judgement. He said the minister and intelligence agents continued to put pressure on him, leading to his departure to South Africa.