By Daniel Nemukuyu
Miss Tourism Zimbabwe Trust and its patron Mrs Barbara Mzembi have approached the High Court claiming defamation damages amounting to $100 000 from Big Time Strategic Group (Private) Limited.
Mrs Mzembi, wife to former Foreign Affairs Minister Walter Mzembi, argues that Big Time Strategic Group — a former Miss Tourism Zimbabwe pageant sponsor – tarnished her image through a newspaper article linking her to alleged misappropriation of funds.
Last month, Mrs Mzembi wrote a letter of demand for the same amount to the company, but nothing materialised, resulting in the dispute spilling into the High Court.
Miss Tourism Zimbabwe Trust and Mrs Mzembi are claiming the damages from the company, its employee Mr Alson Darikayi, the Daily News and its reporter Vasco Chaya.
The statements, which are deemed defamatory, were published in the Daily News edition of July 12 this year. The story was titled “Sponsor dumps Miss Tourism Zimbabwe”.
According to the plaintiff’s declaration, Mr Darikayi was quoted in the article as saying: “We pulled out of the deal mainly to protect our brand as Big Time Strategic Group.
“We feared the manner in which the pageant was being run might indelibly dent our image.” The plaintiffs argued that the above statement was wrong and defamatory.
“The statement by the first defendant (Mr Darikayi) in the context of the article is wrongful and defamatory . . .” The above utterances, according to the plaintiffs, were defamatory considering that they preceded another paragraph by the Daily News writer, which reads:
“Big Time Strategic Group, which poured about $2 million into Miss Tourism pageant last year, reportedly pulled out of the Mzembi-led pageant after citing financial mismanagement as well as failure to merge with Miss Zimbabwe pageant, among other issues.”
The above statement, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers, insinuated that Mrs Mzembi and the trust were dishonest, unlikeable, disorganised and unethical.
They claim that the utterances insinuated that they were “very irresponsible people, who do not know how to handle finances and need a curator to manage their financial affairs”.
To that end, the plaintiffs are claiming $100 000 plus interest calculated from the date of demand to the date of final payment. An order for costs is also being sought against the defendants. The defendants in the matter are yet to respond to the claim. The Herald