Senior Court Reporter
The High Court has dismissed a US$300 000 defamation suit brought by Zifa board member Brigadier-General (Retired) Eliot Kasu against The Herald because the paper professionally and fairly covered the three articles he complained about. Kasu instituted civil proceedings against The Herald senior sports editor Robson Sharuko and Zimbabwe Newspapers, publishers of the country’s largest daily, claiming three articles published in 2010 were highly defamatory of him as a public figure.
The first article titled “Sharuko threatened” (October 13, 2010) covered a police report made by Sharuko after he felt he was threatened by Kasu at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
Kasu also complained about the story headlined “Zifa board member Kasu in court” (October 16, 2010) written when Kasu appeared in court to answer to the charges of threatening Sharuko.
The third article, “Tears from the heart” (October 23, 2010) was an opinion piece by Sharuko in which he bemoaned confusion and poor management by Zifa leadership.
Justice November Mtshiya dismissed the lawsuit with costs and cleared the paper.
“The plaintiff’s claim is dismissed in its entirety and the plaintiff shall pay costs of the suit,” ruled Justice Mtshiya.
He said Sharuko was a credible witness who proffered a believable defence and stood by it from the time when the criminal trial was held at the magistrates’ courts, through to the civil defamation proceedings at the High Court.
“The first defendant (Sharuko), in my view, gave a credible story. I further did not read a different story from the record of the lower court,” said Justice Mtshiya.
“The first defendant’s story, in my view, remained the same and intact even after extensive cross-examination from the plaintiff’s counsel.”
Justice Mtshiya found that the two witnesses who testified for Kasu – Terence Antonio (a Harare Polytechnic lecturer) and photojournalist Lazarus Riva – were not credible and had rehearsed their testimony.
He found that Kasu could indeed have threatened Sharuko.
It was Justice Mtshiya’s finding that the story on the police report and on court proceedings related to the report were truthful and fairly written.
He said the opinion article on Zifa mismanagement was a true reflection of the feelings of soccer fans at the time and represented fair comment on the part of The Herald.