Harare doctor sued US$100k for defamatory Twitter posts flagging supervisor’s ‘dubious’ qualifications

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By Chief Correspondent

A HARARE medical doctor, Leon Gwaunza, has been sued for US$100,000 over defamatory statements posted on social media questioning his supervisor Andrew Mataruse’s qualifications.

Gwaunza has been ordered to withdraw the statements he made against Mataruse in a letter served to him by the latter’s lawyers, last week.

According to the document, his averments affected Mataruse’s business and client base.

“Our client advises us that on or about 8 July, 2021 you wrote a letter to the Registrar of the Medical and Dental Profession Council of Zimbabwe (herein after called “the MDPCZ”) wherein you questioned our client’s neurology qualifications and called them dubious,” reads the letter from his attorney Admire Rubaya.

“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 lawyers continued; “The above statements are not only defamatory and untrue, but same are very malicious.

“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.

“Our client’s reputation has been severely damaged which has consequently had a negative impact on his cliental 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 is hinged on good and reliable reputation. Our client has the real risk of incurring quantifiable financial losses.”

Mataruse supervised Gwaunza when he sought to be a specialist.

“Our client holds additional qualification in Master of Science Clinical Neurology from the University College of London (UCL) in 2017 and that qualification is duly registered with the MDPCZ,” said Mataruse’s attorneys.

“As you should be obviously aware, University College of London, which operates as ‘UCL’, is a major public research university located in London, United Kingdom;

“Our client attained an additional qualification of Specialist Certificate Neurology from the Royal College of Physicians (UK) in 2019 which
qualification is registered with the MDPCZ.”

According to the letter, Mataruse further attained a qualification of Fellow of European Board of Neurology from the European Board of Neurology (EBN) in July 2021 and these were submitted for registration with MDPCZ.

Adds the letter: “It is our client’s considered view that you knew very well or ought to have known that these qualifications were not dished out at a political rally, but were awarded to him on merit from reputable universities and examination boards after our client had completed a rigorous examination process,” the letter read.

“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.

“. . .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.

“Additionally, our client demands the payment of US$100,000.00 as damages for defamation within five days of this letter. In the event that you fail to retract the defamatory statements and pay the sum of US$100,000.00 as demanded, our client shall proceed to issue summons and claim damages for defamation without any further notice to you,” said Rubaya.