Information minister fails to gag weekly paper

New York, April 19, 2001 — Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe’s beleaguered minister of state for information and publicity, has suffered a setback in his latest court battle with the country’s independent press.

On April 17, a High Court judge ruled against Moyo’s attempt to restrain the Harare business weekly Zimbabwe Independent from reporting on embezzlement charges filed against him in Kenya by the Ford Foundation, local newspapers reported.

Zimbabwe Independent reporter Dumisani Muleya, editor Iden Wetherell, and the paper’s publishers were named in Moyo’s complaint.

The Ford Foundation filed suit against Moyo in Nairobi on January 22. The suit claims that Moyo stole some US$100,000 in official funds when he was working for the foundation in Kenya between 1993 and 1997.

Moyo had asked the court to restrain Zimbabwe Independent from covering his upcoming trial.
The judge directed the paper to “show cause why it should not be stopped from publishing stories” about the lawsuit.

Moyo’s lawyer had argued that the matter should not be reported on because it was before a court of law. He further claimed that the Kenyan High Court summons to Moyo did not mention fraud allegations against his client.

Justice Moses Chinhengo disagreed, finding that the summons clearly stated allegations of fraud and that Zimbabwe Independent was correct to state that Moyo has been implicated in misappropriation of funds.

In his ruling, Justice Chinhengo wrote that Zimbabwe as a young democracy should “guard freedom of expression.” “[Moyo] seeks the court to interdict articles he has not seen, that are not written and are not before this court,” he said, before ruling against Moyo’s plaint.

The judge added that the correct remedy for Moyo was to sue the paper for damages, which he has done.

Moyo has filed civil defamation suits against both Zimbabwe Independent and The Daily News, another Harare paper. Neither suit is affected by Justice Chinhengo’s ruling