BY CHARLES LAITON
Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, who is being sued by a Lebanese businessman together with former First Lady Grace Mugabe in a US$4 million defamation lawsuit, has approached the High Court seeking permission to file his response to the lawsuit late.
Jamal Hamed filed the lawsuit claiming compensation for his soiled image and damages to his three houses that Grace and her son Russel Goreraza seized following squabbles over a diamond ring.
In the lawsuit, the businessman cited Grace, her son, police officers Kennedy Fero and Nyambo Viera and Matanga in his official capacity, as respondents in the matter. But after failing to meet the deadline within which to enter his appearance to defend, Matanga then approached the High Court, arguing he did not deliberately miss the 10-day period, but was making enquiries as to why he had been included in the matter given that no notice of intention to sue him was given. Matanga further said when Jamal was involved in the litigation with Grace; he had not yet been appointed to head the police.
“When the summons were received by my office, they were immediately forwarded to the Police Legal Service Directorate whose mandate it is to deal with all issues of a legal nature on my behalf,” Matanga said in his founding affidavit.
“Suffice to say, during the period 2016-17 mentioned in the summons, I was not yet in office. I was only appointed in 2018. There was, therefore, need for me to investigate the circumstances surrounding the cause of action before I could diligently instruct on how to respond to the summons.”
In his declaration, Jamal said between October 2016 and December 2017, Grace and Goreraza published a statement in connection with the diamond ring saga, claiming that he had breached the terms and conditions of the deal.
Consequently, he averred, the published statements depicted him as a crook and a criminal, tarnishing his image, both locally and internationally for which he is demanding US$2 million.
“As part of my investigations, I had to cause my office to go through all our files to check if ever the plaintiff (Jamal) served me with a notice of intention to use the office of the Commissioner-General. There was no such notice,” Matanga said.
“I was, therefore, left with no option other than having to task some of my legal personnel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the matter and to ascertain not only all the details, but also to establish why my office was being made part of the suit by the plaintiff’s. Such an action was necessary because the plaintiff’s claim that ninth and tenth respondents (Fero and Viera) are being sued in their personal and individual capacities.
“It is my humble submission to this honourable court that the failure to file an appearance to defend was never wilful, but as a result of circumstances beyond my control or that of my legal practitioners. As I have alluded to earlier on, the investigations that needed to be undertaken for me to understand this complex and multiple suits could not be completed within 10 days.”
The matter is pending.