High Court Judge, Justice Yunus Omerjee will preside over a pre-trial conference in the case where Finance minister Tendai Biti is suing The Herald newspaper and its writers.
President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba is also cited in the lawsuit as a respondent.
Biti, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary-general is suing for damages amounting to US$500 000 as compensation for defamatory articles which he alleges were carried by the state-run Herald newspaper last year.
The Finance minister says the newspaper articles, which were published between January 2009 and February 2009 and written by Herald reporters Mabasa Sasa and Sydney Kawaza were “malicious, false, wrongful and defamatory in nature” and had “the effect of damaging his good name, reputation and dignity and exposed him to ridicule.”
The matter has been set down for hearing on March 18, before Justice Omerjee in chambers.
Biti says in court papers that although he, through his lawyers Kantor and Immerman, asked for a retraction of the stories, the Herald refused to do so and in fact, continued to publish further articles carrying substantially the same slant and meaning as previous articles thereby continuing to injure his “reputation and dignity.”
In the articles headlined: MDC: who really stands in the way of the Inclusive Government; Biti Fights Lone Battle; To Biti or Not To Biti and Anti Tsvangirai Plot Thickens, the Herald reporters and its columnist Nathaniel Manheru – believed to be Charamba – claimed that Biti was dissuading the MDC from entering into a power-sharing agreement with President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party, a claim which he denies.