TWO senior Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) officers have filed a $600 000 defamation claim at the High Court against a South African weekly paper, the Sunday Times, and its reporter, Hendrick Chizhanje, over a story which alleged the secret agents confirmed their department had acquired new top-of-the-range vehicles, for use in the forthcoming general elections.
The two — Ricky Nelson Mawere and David Nyabando — claimed a story titled Mugabe spy agency orders new (Toyota) Fortuners carried by the Sunday Times on December 2 last year, had created a tense working relationship with their colleagues within the organisation.
“As a result of the foregoing, the plaintiffs (Mawere and Nyabando) have had their personal character damaged as well as their standing as senior employees of the CIO and it has resulted in tension being created between them and their workmates,” their lawyers, Nyikadzino, Simango and Associates said in summons under case number HC358/13.
Mawere and Nyabando further said the article alleged they confirmed the purchase of the vehicles by their organisation when in actual fact they had not spoken nor met with Chizhanje.
“The clear impression made by the article is that it was written based on information given by the plaintiff when the writer of the article never met any of the plaintiffs or even had contact with them,” the agents said.
In response, the Sunday Times and Chizhanje’s lawyers, Atherstone and Cook, argued the claim by the secret service operatives had no merit and urged the court to dismiss it.
“Defamation has become a growth industry in recent times and claims made simply bear no relationship to actual awards made even in quite serious cases. In the
present matter, not only is there no whiff of defamation,” the lawyers said.
“The first defendant is stated to be a newspaper which is merely a name and which therefore has no locus standi . . . the words complained of are not defamatory of plaintiff.”