By Mtandazo Dube
Miss Tourism Zimbabwe Trust and its patron Barbara Mzembi have written to Big Time Strategic Group demanding US$100 000 for “damages arising out of the publication of an article” that appeared in one of the daily papers in July this year.
Reads part of the letter of demand: “We are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, the sum of one hundred thousand United States dollars (US$100 000) as damages for defamation rising out of the publication of an article entitled ‘Sponsor dumps Miss Tourism for Miss World Zim’. . . ”.
Through their lawyers, Rubaya & Chatambudza Legal Practitioners, Mzembi and Miss Tourism Zimbabwe Trust gave Big Time Strategic Group seven days to “honour this demand”.
However, Big Time Strategic Group through their legal representatives Mbidzo, Muchadehama & Makoni, dismissed the demand.
“Our client is not going to pay to yours the amount of one hundred thousand United States dollars (US$100 000) as demanded or any sum at all. Any action that yours might take against ours will be defended,” read the response.
The issue is now likely to be settled through the courts.
Big Time Strategic Group corporate affairs director Alson Darikayi, who is alleged to have uttered the defamatory statements, confirmed these developments.
“Indeed, we have received communication from lawyers representing Miss Tourism Zimbabwe Trust and Mrs Barbara Mzembi, first demanding a retraction of statements that appeared in a local newspaper and then demanding US$100 000.
“As Big Time Strategic Group, we know that this is meant to distract us from focusing on the bigger picture, which is that of launching our company here in Zimbabwe. We are ready to defend ourselves in the courts of law should it get to that,” said Darikayi.
Barbara Mzembi, who is the wife of Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Walter Mzembi, said she was angered by the allegation that she “misappropriated funds” and thus had sought ways to clear her name and that of the Trust.
“We asked them to retract their statements but no one replied and then my lawyer said the only way to get their attention would be to demand damages. I only seek to protect my name and that of the Trust.
“There was no misappropriation of funds, we have the paperwork, even if we didn’t, with what proof did they make those allegations?” she said.
Mzembi said she would consult with her lawyers first before deciding whether the issue should be settled by the courts.
Big Time Strategic Group and the Mzembis (Barbara and Walter) have had a love-hate relationship since joining hands in 2016 to produce one of the most glamorous Miss Tourism Zimbabwe pageants in the history of the event.
In June this year, Maphosa and all his companies severed ties with Miss Tourism Zimbabwe Trust.
Big Time Strategic Group immediately went into bed with a rival pageant, Miss World Zimbabwe and also undertook to sponsor the Harare International Carnival, which came with naming rights.
This created animosity, which sucked in Minister Mzembi and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Dr Karikoga Kaseke. Dr Kaseke described the dispute as a personal fight between Minister Mzembi and Maphosa.
“The minister is bitter. He is fighting with Maphosa over the withdrawal of the sponsor from Miss Tourism, which is run by the minister’s wife.” The Sunday Mail