HARARE – Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, pictured, who has twice lost a staggering $50 million lawsuit in the High Court against Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) — the publishers of the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post — has now filed an appeal in the same matter at the Supreme Court.
Mphoko is challenging High Court judge Lavender Makoni’s recent ruling against him, in which the VP was also slapped with costs after the court ruled that he used the wrong procedure in seeking to rescind a previous ruling which had also gone against him.
This happened after Mphoko failed to attend a pre-trial conference in his ginormous claim, arguing unsuccessfully then that he was attending to national duty.
ANZ lawyer Alec Muchadehama shredded the claim to pieces, saying the VP had exhibited “a bad attitude” towards his case by failing to attend the proceedings in person as required by the law, choosing instead to send an official from his office, Themba Ndlovu, to represent him.
“The pre-trial conference is not a formality. It is an essential part of the proceedings and the judge will have put aside other work and study the pleadings in order to prepare for the conference. It is therefore in the extreme to wait until the time scheduled to advise the court that parties are unable to attend,” Makoni ruled then after hearing both parties.
Mphoko’s lawsuit followed a June 5, 2015 article that the VP took exception to, which was based on an interview with firebrand former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda.
In the story, Sibanda claimed that Mphoko had sold out during the liberation struggle when he allegedly diverted weapons meant for the late Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu to Zanu — a move that Sibanda further claimed could have led to the needless deaths of thousands of people.
In his latest notice of appeal, Mphoko is arguing that the High Court erred in dismissing his record claim.
“The honourable court a quo erred at law in determining that the appellant (Mphoko) was in default at the pretrial conference and therefore dismissing the claim when he was duly represented by his legal practitioner and another representative who was well versed with the case.
“The honourable court a quo had been informed that the appellant had gone to attend to national duties.
“The appellant will pray that this appeal will be allowed with costs and the judgment of the court a quo set aside, and replaced with an order to the following effect: that the matter be referred to trial,” he argued.
However, ANZ lawyers Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni have since written to Mphoko, advising him that this notice of appeal is also fatally defective as it still does not comply with the rules of the court.
“We also write to you regarding the respondent’s costs.
“This matter has taken a lot of twists and turns. Considerable time has been spent by the parties dealing with this matter.
“We submit that the costs incurred in this matter are now substantial. To this end, we request that your client deposits with our or your trust account the sum of $10 000 as security for costs of respondents’ costs,” ANZ’s lawyers said.