Biti appeal puts brakes on US$1 million defamation suit by Augur Investments

HARARE – Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) vice president Tendai Biti’s US$1 million defamation suit by businessman Ken Sharpe’s Augur Investments was moved to 30 March after the politician lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court.

The filing of the appeal automatically froze trial proceedings at the High Court.

Biti wants to appeal after his application for exception was thrown out by High Court judge, Jacob Manzunzu in 2021.

He was sued after he branded Sharpe one of most corrupt people who were looting Zimbabwe’s resources.

Trial was due to commence before High Court judge, Tawanda Chitapi on Monday but failed to kick off after Biti Friday filed an appeal against the High Court’s ruling.

Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba, representing Sharpe, said Biti should be punished for delaying trial.

“The trajectory that this trial has taken shows that the defendant does not want the trial to commence.

“We ask for an order of costs against the defendant…,” said Magwaliba.

Professor Lovemore Madhuku, representing Biti, opposed the application.

“Costs are in your discretion and an indulgence by the court…all the period from 2021 has nothing to do with defendant. It was the delay of the court,” he said.

Chitapi will hand down his ruling on the issue of costs on the 30th of this month.

In the main summons, Augur Investments is seeking US$500,000 damages from Biti while its chief operations officer, Tatiana Aleshina is claiming US$100,000.

Sharpe is demanding US$400,000.

Sharpe claims Biti lied against him when he named him as one of most corrupt people looting Zimbabwe’s resources.

The company said Biti defamed the firm’s proprietor by making baseless claims.

MDC Alliance was also cited as defendant for allegedly pursuing a malicious agenda based on Biti’s tweets.

“On or about December 13, 2020 and again on December 23, 2020, the first defendant further published two other false, malicious and defamatory statements of and concerning the 1st and 3rd plaintiff in particular where he stated the following, ‘Glyn Cohen is amongst a coterie of elite looters that are bleeding Zimbabwe or have bled Zimbabwe aided and abated by Zanu PF patronage system.

“This list includes Hamish and Simon Rudland, Ian McMillan, Lawrence Sher, Van Hoogstraten, Ken Sharpe, Sam Levy estate and the food mafia’,” Biti wrote in the tweet.

He added, “The desperate actions of Kenneth Sharpe and Augur Investments will not erase the truth that they looted thousands of hectares of land from the city of Harare under the airport agreement land was transferred to Augur but it never performed. Government took over the project’.”

Sharpe claimed that in the December 12 tweet, Biti made baseless claims that cannot go unchallenged.

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