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Medical doctor dragged to court in US$100k ‘defamation’ lawsuit

Medical doctor Lenon Gwaunza has been dragged to court for failing to withdraw alleged defamatory social media posts he made describing a fellow doctor and his qualifications as dubious.

Gwaunza, who made headlines in 2020 for unconventionally wooing opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere on social media, is being sued for US$100 000 for slandering the professional reputation of top neurologist Andrew Mataruse.

Gwaunza allegedly claimed Mataruse had dubious qualifications in a letter to the Medical and Dental Profession Council of Zimbabwe which were later found to be baseless allegations and he was served with a letter of demand in the sum of US$100 000.

Mataruse is one of the specialist physicians practicing clinical neurology and internal medicine in Zimbabwe and has many post graduate qualifications including MMed Medicine(UZ), Fellow College of Physicians (Eastern Central Southern Africa College of Physicians), Master of Science in Clinical Neurology (University College London), Specialist Certificate in Clinical neurology (Royal College of Physicians) and Fellow of the European Board Neurology.

He supervised and mentored Gwaunza during his senior registrar year of 2020 after being duly appointed to do so by the Medical and Dental Professions Council of Zimbabwe.

Four months after being registered as a specialist physician in July 2021, Gwaunza allegedly wrote to the Medical Council castigating Mataruse’s standing on academic qualifications and suitability to have supervised him.

Mataruse through his lawyer Admire Rubaya said the defamation is “reckless, unprovoked, incessant, malicious, false and insincere in that it is aimed at his own supervisor under whose supervision and by virtue of whose qualifications he became a specialist.”

Mataruse through his lawyers including Thabani Mpofu has since commenced action against Gwaunza seeking “Payment of the sums of US$30 000, US$30 000 and US$40 000 respectively being damages for defamation.

“Interest on the sums set out above reckoned from the date of summons to the date of payment in full.

“An order mandating the defendant to pull down the defamatory material from all the social media sites on which he has posted them.

“An order directing defendant to issue an unconditional apology to plaintiff. Costs of suit such costs to include the costs of two counsel.”

In a letter to Gwaunza recently, Mataruse and his lawyers said Gwaunza was malicious in making the claims.

“On or about 8 July, 2021 you wrote a letter to the Registrar of the Medical and Dental Profession Council of Zimbabwe (hereinafter called “the MDPCZ”) wherein you questioned our client’s neurology qualifications and called them dubious.

“We are further advised that you made serious allegations that our client is an imposter who was misrepresenting, to the generality of patients and colleagues in the medical fraternity, that he is a Neurologist.

“In essence, you maliciously and falsely claimed that our client is a fraudster in circumstances where you knew very well that our client is adequately qualified to be called a neurologist.

“The above statements are not only defamatory and untrue but same are very malicious,” Mataruse’s lawyer Admire Rubaya wrote.

Mataruse is a specialist doctor with several qualifications but Gwaunza allegedly took his allegations to Twitter.

“Further, you have reiterated your defamatory remarks through your Twitter handle, @lgwaunza, in particular, on 20th August, 2021 wherein you seriously quizzed our client’s qualifications and demeaned his ability to practice as a neurologist.

“The widely published tweets that you posted have global reach and they have seriously damaged his major asset which is goodwill and trading brand. Put differently, the publications of the various statements which you made about questionable medical qualifications are malicious and injurious.

“Our client’s reputation has been severely damaged which has consequently had a negative impact on his clientele base. As you are obviously aware, as a specialist in Zimbabwe, our client relies on referrals from fellow colleagues and other medical professionals all of which hinge on a good and reliable reputation. Our client has the real risk of incurring quantifiable financial losses.

“Our client advises us that he is now on the verge of losing many lucrative contracts as the various publications have cast him in a bad light,” his lawyer wrote.

Mataruse holds several qualifications and he supervised Gwaunza for him to be a specialist and according to his lawyer, questioning Mataruse’s qualifications is self-destructive as he is called specialist by virtue of supervision by a person whom he labels dubious.

“When you made those false allegations, you knew very well that our client had successfully supervised and mentored you on attitude, knowledge and clinical neurology for the whole year of 2020 whilst you were working at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (PGH) (Neurology Clinic, Medical wards and Stroke Unit),” the letter added.

The Medical and Dental Profession Council of Zimbabwe had since exonerated Mataruse from the allegations raised against him by Gwaunza with a letter dated August 1 2022 from the registrar Josephine Mwakutuya clearing him.

“Regarding the allegations of dubious qualifications, be advised that your qualifications were duly assessed by Council through the Education and Liaison Committee of Council which approved the qualifications as recognized additional qualifications that warrant specialist registration as a Neurologist.

“Regarding the issue of you being an unqualified supervisor, Council indeed appointed you as a qualified supervisor to supervise a Senior Registrar based on your competence,” the letter read.

Mataruse wants Gwaunza to retract his statements to the same board he wrote to.

“. . .our instructions are to demand, as we hereby do, the publication of a full, unconditional and unreserved withdrawal of these defamatory statements and the related imputations together with an expression of – regret on the same within forty eight (48) hours of receiving this letter as well as a letter of regret to the MDPCZ Council withdrawing all the allegations you have raised against him,” his lawyer wrote.