By Robert Tapfumaneyi
HARARE lawyer Tinomudaishe Chinyoka has demanded an apology from journalist Hopewell Chin’ono accusing the scribe of posting on Twitter a statement that damaged his “reputation”.
Chin’ono has been given an ultimatum of up to Monday to remove the post or Chinyoka will be left with no option but to sue him for US$50 0000 in damages.
The “damaging” post is reported to have been posted on 29 April 2021 by Chin’ono on his Twitter handle.
It read; “When @advocatemahere, @JobSikhala1 & myself were arrested, the world saw what it means to have a degree & yet be empty. Zanu PF sent its surrogates like Bright Matonga, Obert Gutu & Tino Chinyoka to defend the use of a law that doesn’t exist. It was ignorance & stomach politics.”
Matonga is a former Deputy Information Minister while Gutu was Friday appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as a commissioner of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).
In his letter of demand sent to Chin’ono through Chinyoka’s lawyers, Gunje Legal Practise, the lawyer argued Chin’ono’s tweet was false and motivated by ‘cowardly malice’.
Chinyoka said Chin’ono had blocked him from his Twitter handle for the journalist to benefit from defaming him without his knowledge.
“You are well aware that our client is a legal practitioner practicing as an advocate, as well as a qualified social worker and father, all of which are directly impacted by any suggestion that he is corrupt, greedy, ignorant, ‘empty’, or is otherwise unfit to be in the role that he occupies,” reads part of the letter to Chin’ono.
“The contents of your publication are false and defamatory of our client in that they impute, and were intended by yourselves to impute, and were understood by the persons to whom they were published to impute, that our client, was corrupt, a person who sold his opinion to the highest bidder, an ignoramus and a corrupt person with no moral fibre and a person unfit to hold the office of a legal practitioner, who has been deployed by a political party to defend legally unsustainable and indefensible positions and therefore guilty of such unconscionable and despicable conduct unbecoming of an advocate.
“Our client is not against freedom of speech and recognises the value of journalists in the development of our nascent democracy. But, while our client believes that a free press is indispensable to democracy and that there is a public interest in publishing stories about persons that place themselves in the public eye, no public interest is served when the subject matter is false, distorted, and/or misleading.
“Especially when full and comprehensive details about what is in fact the correct position are ignored. At this stage neither we nor our client have any desire to issue legal proceedings against you and we are keen to do all we can to avoid litigation where possible.
“However, we will only desist from issuing legal proceedings provided upon receipt of this letter you agree to do the following: Retweet your offending tweet with the statement:
‘The inclusion of Tino Chinyoka in this tweet was an error for which I apologise, produce an apology by way of reply to the offending tweet and cause such apology and declaration to be published in each of the forums which have given or could give reason for our complaint (such apology to include the headline):
“UPDATE: MY TWEET WAS WITHOUT MERIT, TINO CHINYOKA DID NOT SUPPORT OUR PROSECUTION AND IN FACT ARGUED THE OPPOSITE, CALLING THE CHARGES AGAINST US A NON-CRIME. I APOLOGISE”, which reply must be approved by us prior to publication’
“Provide an undertaking that you will not make any further defamatory statements, as well as issue a public apology on your handle, provide details of the number of posts made outside of your website, together with website addresses, and make proposals for the payment to our client of damages for the harm caused to our client’s reputation.”