Biti’s US$1m defamation case to proceed

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter

The US$1million civil lawsuit against CCC politician Tendai Biti for allegedly defaming the owner of land development company Augur Investments, Mr Kenneth Sharpe, his company and another senior executive can now proceed.

This follows the failure of his application for leave to appeal at the Supreme Court against a High court decision that Mr Sharpe could proceed. The application was struck off the roll, with costs.  Augur and Mr Sharpe launched the defamation lawsuit against Mr Biti three years ago after the politician, in his twitter handle, named him as the most corrupt person looting Zimbabwe’s resources.

However, Mr Biti objected to the lawsuit but lost the case at High Court by way of a default judgment entered against him.

Mr Biti then approached the Supreme Court seeking leave to appeal against the decision that had dismissed an exception to the defamation summons he had raised in the lower court.

But after hearing arguments on Wednesday, Justice Alfas Chitakunye, sitting in chambers, struck the appeal application off the roll with costs on the basis that the motion was improper before the court.

The judge noted that the order of the High Court, which Mr Biti sought to challenge, was a default judgment hence the politician had to purge his default in the lower court first, and so had jumped the gun by approaching the Supreme Court.

The application was also filed after the lapse of the mandatory 10-day period stipulated in the Supreme Court rules within which he had to approach the court after the High Court refused leave to appeal, said Justice Chitakunye.

In this case, Biti should have first sought condonation to file his application out of time but failed to comply with the rules of the court.

Augur Investments is seeking US$500 000 damages from Mr Biti, split as follows: Mr Sharpe US$400 000, and Chief Operations Officer Tatiana Aleshina US$100 000.

Mr Sharpe also cited the opposition party for pursuing a malicious agenda based on Mr Biti’s tweets.

Sometime in December 2020, Mr Biti is alleged to have further published two other defamatory statements concerning Mr Sharpe and Ms Aleshina and several other prominent business people that he named as amongst a coterie of elite looters that were allegedly bleeding Zimbabwe.

Advocate Daphne Sanhanga instructed by Mr Bright Mahuni of Scanlen and Holderness acted for Augur and its executives, while Professor Lovemore Madhuku represented Mr Biti.

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