REGISTRAR-GENERAL Tobaiwa Mudede has lost a defamation suit against the Zimbabwe Independent. In the ruling by Justice Sandra Mungwira on Wednesday, he was described as an “unconvincing” witness
whose evidence was “suspect”.
Mudede in 1999 sued the paper and its editor Trevor Ncube for $500 000 over an article which suggested that Mudede had benefited from loans made by the troubled United Merchant Bank. The article said Mudede could escape repayment of loans because records of the bank – owned by the late Roger Boka – had gone missing.
Mudede denied this saying the article had portrayed him as dishonest, unprofessional and corrupt.
Mudede had in his evidence before the court said he was a legal practitioner and a man of high social standing. He denied being a director of Boka’s bank but admitted receiving sums of money from the bank. He also said he did public relations work for the bank.
But the court was unimpressed.
“The evidence of the plaintiff, in my view, speaks for itself,” said Justice Mungwira. “He unfortunately, for one who had made much of his being well-versed in the law, professing to be a qualified legal practitioner, made a very poor showing.
“He, by the words of his own mouth unleashed a can of worms. The plaintiff did himself a gross disservice.”
In his evidence, described in the judgement as “a somewhat convoluted explanation”, Mudede said he had been involved in the trading of shares in a private company, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors.
Leading evidence on his creditworthiness, Mudede said he had managed to overturn a default judgement against him by making a direct approach to the presiding magistrate to complain.
Justice Mungwira cited the two incidents as examples of “self-betrayal” by Mudede.
“His description of his dealings with the late Roger Boka, the business of the sale to members of the public of shares in a private company and the circumstances in which he obtained ‘recession’ of a court judgement without recourse to the laid-down procedures are a few of the instances of this self-betrayal that I refer to,” the judge said.
She added: “Some of his revelations left one agog with incredulity given the nature of the case and that here was a man of substance who had gone to the lengths of litigating to preserve his good name.
“It was somewhat difficult to avoid developing a feeling of discomfiture at the patent embarrassment that he occasioned to himself, particularly when one takes into account his position in the land.”
Justice Mugwira said Mudede “appeared to have little grasp of the concept of defamation or what it is that was required of him to establish a case against the defendants”.
She said the evidence led by Mudede was inconclusive and “elements of self-contradiction arose throughout his testimony”.
“At the end of the day, and regrettably so, one was left with little choice but to consider suspect his version of events,” the judge said.