PROMINENT lawyer Terrence Hussein who has represented Zanu PF luminaries has threatened to sue permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Pub
licity, George Charamba, if he fails to substantiate claims he made in his answering affidavit in a constitutional challenge to the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).
Hussein represented a number of Zanu PF legislators who won the watershed 2000 parliamentary elections and whose victories were later challenged in the High Court by the MDC.
He also represented President Robert Mugabe when his 2002 presidential victory was challenged by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claiming the election was rigged.
Charamba, also Mugabe’s spokesman, claimed in the affidavit that Hussein had helped craft the BSA and should, therefore, recuse himself from the constitutional case seeking the abrogation of some sections of the law.
“It is surprising that Hussein, for reasons best known to him(self), has decided to exploit the information given to him in confidence and such a thing should not be allowed as it gives rise to a conflict of interests of a serious nature,” said Charamba.
He further argued that if Hussein was allowed to represent the respondents, this would seriously harm not only the minister but also the relationships between lawyers and their clients as the protection of clients’ confidential information would play second fiddle to the economic interests of legal practitioners.
“Indeed, there is a serious conflict of interest in this matter and Hussein and his practice should recuse themselves, failure of which this matter should be dismissed,” added Charamba.
The threat to sue Charamba comes amid revelations that the Attorney General (AG)’s office had failed to respond to a letter Hussein wrote in August demanding evidence on the claims made by the permanent secretary. Hussein said Charamba’s claims are false and gravely defamatory.
“The allegations in our view are seriously defamatory and we give you (the Attorney General) and your client (Charamba) due notice that unless they are fully substantiated, we will institute a damages claim,” read Hussein’s letter to the AG.
Hussein is representing Ndabenhle Mabhena and his company, Manala (Pvt) Ltd, in the Supreme Court case in which the applicant is challenging Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and Transmedia.
The applicant is seeking an order declaring that Section 38 of the BSA is inconsistent with Section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Section 38 of the BSA states that all frequencies allocated immediately before the date of the commencement of the BSA would continue to be operational exclusively to ZBC.
In Zimbabwe there are only two VHF (Very High Frequency) television channels and both of them are held by ZBC. There are also three other available television channels known as UHF (Ultra High Frequency).
The applicants are arguing that essentially what it means is that when one wants to start a television station they would have to set up UHF transmission systems parallel to the one held by Transmedia for VHF television.
Applicants further argue that it is not an option to go on UHF due to the funds involved while ZBC is sitting on two VHF channels and using only one.
The applicants also contends that ZBC is now a private limited company and there is no justification for it to tax the public in the form of licence fees. They argue that collecting licence fees from the public is a ploy to perpetuate and fund the monopoly ZBC currently enjoys.
In response, the government argues that the other VHF channel has been reserved for National Television which the applicants argue has not taken off the ground.
The Ministry of Information in its response is arguing that the retention of frequencies was not unconstitutional because they were providing a public service.