By Fungi Kwaramba
Cabinet ministers Sydney Sekeramayi and David Parirenyatwa have written to Energy Mutodi signalling their intention to sue the controversial businessman for sensationally claiming that they were behind the alleged poisoning of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mutodi claimed on his Facebook wall last week that Defence minister Sekeramayi and Health and Child Care minister Parirenyatwa, who are both medical doctors, were behind the alleged poisoning of Mnangagwa in Gwanda last month.
But in a letter dated August 30, 2017, the two senior government officials wrote through their lawyers — Dzikamai Machingura Legal Practitioners — that Mutodi should remove the offending post from his Facebook timeline; retract his statement and pay defamation damages to the tune of $20 000 to each one of them.
“We are instructed that on or about the 25th of August 2017 at 1:11pm, an article entitled Two ministers top suspects in ED poison case, whose content concerned our clients and others was posted on the timeline of your Facebook account under the alias Energy Mutodi.
“There is no doubt that your Facebook account is widely viewed and we are instructed that as of time of this letter, you had 15 604 Facebook followers. Further, the particular post was shared 18 times by other Facebook users, further broadening the viewership of the post,” the letter read in part.
The lawyers representing the Cabinet ministers went on to claim that the words in the context of the post and in their natural and ordinary meaning and or by implication, the words were wrongful and defamatory of their clients in that they were intended and were understood by Mutodi’s Facebook followers to mean that they conspired to poison Mnangagwa.
They further argued that the words were taken to mean that they were malevolent characters with no respect for life, that they abused their specialist knowledge as medical doctors and that they had conspired to fabricate false allegations that Mnangagwa had been poisoned at a rally after consuming ice cream from Gushungo Dairy, owned by President Robert Mugabe’s family.
“The article and words published by you are bereft of truth, and wholly uncalled for. We therefore contend that you were grossly negligent and reckless, on account of this, lowered our clients’ esteem in the eyes of the public.
“We have therefore have been instructed to demand from you that you immediately and forthwith remove the offending post from your Facebook timeline and pay defamation damages in the amount of $20 000 to our respective clients,” reads part of the letter.
Apart from the sum of $40 000, Mutodi has been instructed to post an apology on Facebook and also publish it in two newspapers.
But Mutodi came out guns blazing yesterday, saying the onus was on Sekeramayi and Parirenyatwa to prove their innocence.
“There is need for the police to do a thorough investigation on the happenings of the 12th of August around . . . Mnangagwa. It is not in dispute that . . . Mnangagwa consumed poisoned food on that day and that he did not eat ice cream from Gushungo Dairy.
“The two accused ministers must therefore not jump the gun and start claiming defamatory damages before being cleared either by the courts of law.
“There is no judge who has heard the matter and determined their innocence. After all, all what I put to the public is hearsay evidence that now needs to be corroborated by police investigations. It is my belief that should police do a thorough job on the investigations, both direct and real evidence incriminating the two accused persons can be found,” said Mutodi.
Mnangagwa, who is touted as a possible successor to Mugabe, was last month airlifted to South Africa after falling ill while attending a Zanu PF youth interface rally in Gwanda.
Mnangagwa’s alleged poisoning incident has further strained relations among mistrusting Zanu PF senior officials.
Government has claimed Mnangagwa — seen as the most likely official to take over from Mugabe in the event that he leaves office — consumed “stale food”.
Mnangagwa’s family and allies insist, however, that the vice president was poisoned by rivals.
There has been widespread speculation that Mnangagwa consumed food poisoned by his Zanu PF rivals in an attempt to physically eliminate him from the succession race.
With Mugabe turning 94 in February next year, fierce jostling has emerged among his top lieutenants who believe they have what it takes to succeed him.
The race, which has been on for the past two decades, has had its intrigues.
Four vice presidents have so far succumbed to varying ailments, denying them of the opportunity to get a chance to run for the top office.
These are Joshua Nkomo (1917–1999); Simon Muzenda (1922–2003); Joseph Msika (1923–2009) and John Landa Nkomo (1934–2013).
More interestingly, Joice Mujuru, once seen as a shoo-in to take over from Mugabe, was fired from Zanu PF and government in 2014 for plotting to dethrone her boss using unconstitutional means.
Mujuru, who is now leading the National People’s Party, had deputised Mugabe for about 10 years.
Nicknamed “the crocodile” in the Shona language, Mnangagwa was appointed after the sacking of Mujuru.
But since taking over from Mujuru, Mnangagwa has found himself facing similar charges from his internal rivals of plotting to unseat Mugabe.
In the past, there have been six break-ins at his offices with his allies saying those were plots to eliminate him. Daily News