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MDC name dispute trial date set

The trial of a long-standing dispute pitting veteran writer David Muzhuzha against Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC over the party’s 1999 name coinage has been set to begin at the High Court on October 14.

David Muzhuzha
David Muzhuzha

Justice Mafusire would preside over the contentious matter whose proceedings were scheduled to run for four days.

The 46-year-old Harare journalist and author filed a US$200 000 lawsuit in December 2011, for alleged defamation arising out of MDC-T’s refusal to acknowledge him as the rightful person who coined its identity.

“With great respect,” the MDC wrote to Muzhuzha in July 2010, “David Muzhuzha did not coin the name Movement for Democratic Change, nor was he in any manner involved in the formation of the MDC.”

The plaintiff at the time had sought compensation amounting to US$2 500 per month for usage of the party name dating to May 1999, when the party was formed on a Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions platform.

At the trial, the defendants would argue that fellow journalist and politician Grace Kwinjeh came up with the MDC name “in conjunction” with the late Learnmore Jongwe, but the plaintiff would insist that its denial of his contribution had an effect of branding him an unashamed liar.

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The defence has lined up a high-profile witness team led by party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa. He will be complemented by its elections director Dennis Murira and losing party primary parliamentary hopeful Kwinjeh. The MDC-T is being represented by leading law firm Honey and Blankenberg. The company closely linked to party secretary general Tendai Biti.

Muzhuzha has one witness to testify from his corner, veteran trade unionist and former ZCTU secretary general Isdore Zindoga. In March 2000, the ZCTU published details of the party’s formation, and singled out Muzhuzha as the person who coined the MDC name.

“Amongst several names proposed for the new alliance,” wrote the ZCTU, “the name ‘Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was formally adopted. Thanks to the editor of The Worker, David Muzhuzha, who proposed this name.”

The Worker was a monthly newspaper published by the labour federation. Muzhuzha is being represented by Joseph Mandizha of Mandizha and Company.

According to court papers on the case, the litigant would cite the July 2010 letter penned out to him by MDC-T director general Toendepi Shonhe as “not only wrongful, but also defamatory” of his dignity and professional standing.

The plaintiff was also suing the MDC-T for honouring Kwinjeh — as the person who coined the MDC name — at its 12th anniversary commemorations held on September 11, at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare.

He would also cite comments on the political name saga attributed to party spokesman Mr Douglas Mwonzora in a September 16, 2011, Financial Gazette article, as part of the alleged MDC-T conspiracy against him.

Muzhuzha is the author of “Travesty of Democracy — The Untold Story”. The 120-page book, which features an eyewitness account of the original MDC’s formation, was published in late 2010. The Herald