Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
Trauma Centre owner Dr Vivek Solanki, who stated that Harare lawyer Ms Beatrice Mtetwa paid $150 000 bribe to a National Prosecution Authority (NPA) senior officer, is now liable to punitive damages to the tune of $25 000.
Ms Mtetwa had sued Dr Solanki for $250 000 for defamation. Dr Solanki, who apologised and retracted his statement in the Press, opted for an out-of-court-settlement.
This resulted in both parties’ lawyers hammering a settlement by consent, that will see Dr Solanki paying $25 000 to Ms Mtetwa, who donated it to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
The money will be paid in monthly instalments of $5 000 with effect from this month.
According to the consent order handed down by Justice Priscilla Munangati-Manongwa in July, Dr Solanki was compelled to publish the statement agreed to by the parties in three newspapers namely The Herald, Daily News and NewsDay before end that month.
“The defendant (Dr Solanki) be and is hereby ordered to pay USD25 000 to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, in monthly instalments of USD5 000 with effect from 1st September 2018 and thereafter by the 1st of each month, until the amount is paid in full,” said Justice Munangati-Manongwa.
“The defendant is ordered to pay the amount of USD5 000 to the plaintiff (Ms Mtetwa) as her agreed facts.” Ms Mtetwa filed the defamation claims against Dr Solanki in May 2014 after he told a magistrate the previous year that she had paid $150 000 bribe to a senior officer at NPA.
The bribery allegations were published in Zimbabwe’s daily newspapers, online publications and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s television and radio stations.
According to summons filed at the High Court, the slanderous statements were uttered during criminal proceedings before a regional magistrate between January 7 and March 13, 2013.
Dr Solanki reportedly stated that: “In fact your learned colleague, Mtetwa and one of the employees of African Medical Investments were seen paying a bribe at the AG’s Office. We have witnesses to it, there is a transcript. We have reported the matter to the police and to the Anti-Corruption Commission as well.”
Ms Mtetwa argued the statement was false and damaged her reputation as a lawyer.
Dr Solanki reportedly repeated the same statements, implicating Chief Law Officer Mr Chris Mutangadura as the official who received the bribe to induce the issuance of a warrant of arrest against him.
Ms Mtetwa said Dr Solanki’s utterances and as widely published, circulated, read and watched were wrongful, defamatory of her.
The utterances, she stated, were intended and were understood by readers, listeners and viewers to label her as a corrupt and dishonest lawyer.
Ms Mtetwa further stated in her pleadings that as a result of the defamatory utterances, she was greatly injured in her name, reputation and in her vocation as an upright legal practitioner.