THE $50 million lawsuit filed against Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Jason Machaya and two others at the Bulawayo High Court by top Zanu PF officials is now ready for a pre-trial conference after both parties filed their papers.
Machaya was sued by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia, July Moyo, Owen Ncube, Douglas Tapfuma and Daniel McKenzie Ncube over utterances linked to controversial Zanu PF provincial elections held last year.
Sachikonye Ushe Legal Practitioners, who are representing Machaya and his chief election agent during the Zanu PF Midlands provincial chairmanship elections Douglas Kanengoni, filed their papers ahead of the pre-trial conference whose date is yet to be set.
The papers were filed in compliance with a High Court order issued by Justice Nokuthula Moyo on July 3 that they make their discovery (compulsory disclosure of pertinent facts) within seven days of the order.
Auxillia’s lawyer Valentine Mutatu had approached the court seeking to compel Machaya, Kanengoni and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti to make the discovery because their delays were affecting the commencement of the trial.
Justice Moyo granted the order with costs against Machaya and his co-defendants in a judgment (0014757) forcing Machaya’s lawyers to comply by July 14 raising issues in which Machaya is distancing himself from the petition at the centre of the defamation claim which was written by Kanengoni.
“Whether or not the second defendant (Kanengoni) wrote the election petition in his capacity as an election agent or as an ordinary member of Zanu PF,” part of the pre–trial issues raised by Machaya read, “Mnangagwa and other plaintiffs claim that Kanengoni wrote a defamatory petition during the highly emotive provincial elections.”
The petition was widely published in the media and used by Bhasikiti to allegedly make defamatory decisions resulting in the five allegedly suffering damages amounting to $10 million each.
Machaya and Kanengoni also deny leaking the petition to the media saying when it was authored, it was not meant for the public, but was a complaint which was supposed to be dealt with at party level.
“Whether or not Machaya or Kanengoni furnished the Southern Eye newspaper with the election petition in question,” being listed as part of the issues. The defamation is viewed as a manifestation of Zanu PF factionalism which now threatens to further tear apart the already fractious party in the province.
Machaya is linked to the faction allegedly aligned to Vice-President Joice Mujuru while the plaintiffs were linked to Justice minister Mnangagwa. The two have, however, denied leading any faction in the party with both saying they were loyal to President Robert Mugabe.