Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has made an application for a $50 million default order against the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publisher of the Daily News, in a defamation suit the newspaper failed to defend on Tuesday.
VP Mphoko sued the Daily News for $50 million over a report claiming that he was “a sellout” and “enriched himself with the blood of the people of this country”.
Daily News chief reporter Fungi Kwaramba, editor-in-chief Stanley Gama, ANZ and printers Printco (Pvt) Ltd were listed as respondents at the High Court over the June 5, 2015, article published under the headline: “Mphoko was a sellout: Sibanda”.
The matter was brought for a pre-trial hearing before Justice Joseph Musakwa sitting in his chambers on Tuesday.
However, the defendants and their lawyers failed to attend the hearing prompting VP Mphoko’s lawyer Mr Gerald Mlotshwa of GN Mlotshwa to apply for all the defendants’ pleas to be struck out.
Mr Mlotshwa yesterday confirmed that the defendants were in default and no explanation was given regarding their failure to appear in the judge’s chambers for the pre-trial conference.
“The judge granted our application and directed that the matter proceed as an unopposed matter in the High Court,” said Mr Mlotshwa.
“The matter is likely to be determined in the next few weeks.”
The article said in part: “Fearless former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda claims that VP Mphoko sold out during the liberation struggle when he allegedly diverted weapons meant for the late Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu to President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, a move he says could have led to the needless death of thousands of people.”
In his claim, VP Mphoko argues that he was branded a treasonous villain who, for his own benefit, clandestinely supplied apartheid South Africa with war material that was in turn supplied to the Selous Scouts.
The Selous Scouts were a Special Forces regiment of the Rhodesian army formed for specific purposes of clandestinely eliminating Zanla and Zipra guerillas during the liberation struggle.
VP Mphoko’s lawyer asked for the article to be deleted from the Daily News website to prevent further damage to his reputation.