By Mary Taruvinga
THE fight between Independent Member of Parliament for Norton Temba Mliswa and BDO Zimbabwe boss, Ngoni Kudenga has spilled to the courts with the later claiming RTGS$10 million defamation damages from the legislator.
Mliswa accused BDO Zimbabwe managing partner and a chartered accountant, Kudenga of having been conflicted when the firm carried out a forensic audit of the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) last year.
Kudenga has now issued summons against Mliswa at the High Court, demanding RTGS$10 million arguing the politician caused publication of defamatory statements against him in a local daily paper (Daily News), which is also cited as a respondent along with the paper’s editor and publisher, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (Private) Limited.
The fight between Mliswa and Kudenga made headlines last year after the lawmaker wrote to Auditor-General Mildred Chiri claiming that BDO Zimbabwe was conflicted to carry out a forensic audit Nssa “because Kudenga has a personal relationship with fired Nssa board chairperson Robin Vela.”
Mliswa went on to present his own damning dossier on Nssa to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The dossier was copied to Vice presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, as well as Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, former Labour and Social Welfare minister Petronella Kagonye, the then Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, ex-Prosecutor-General Ray Goba and Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga.
Kudenga said this has cost him business.
“The first defendant (Mliswa)’s conduct was actuated by malice and there was no legal basis for him to copy the falsehoods to the mentioned dignitaries nor was any justification for such conduct given to Parliament,” said Kudenga in his declaration.
The article was headlined “Mliswa, Ex-Nssa Boss Vela Square off.”
“The article was (not) only untrue in all respects but highly defamatory of the plaintiff (Kudenga) and was so published with the express intention and motive of casting aspersions on the character of the plaintiff and his organisation, lowering him in the estimation of ordinary reasonable persons within the newspaper’s readership and exposed him to distrust, public ridicule and contempt, both in his professional and personal capacities,” said Kudenga.
In the article, Mliswa alleged that Vela must account for the payment of the money he was given by Kudenga.
Mliswa said Kudenga owed Vela some money and used the smoke-screen of the Tetrad deal to settle personal debts between each other.
Kudenga said the publisher of the privately owned Daily News and its editor should have verified facts before publishing the article.
The accountant also claimed that the article caused him embarrassment and loss of standing since it aroused concern from his friends, family, colleagues and business partners both locally and internationally and from the public in general.
“As a result of the defamatory statements referred herein, the plaintiff has been damaged in his reputation and good standing and suffered damages in the amount of RTGS$10 million,” wrote Messrs Sawyer and Mkushi, his lawyers before praying that Mliswa pays the defamation damages including interests and costs of suit.
In his dossier Mliswa said: “My concern stems from the close personal relationship enjoyed between the former chairperson of Nssa Mr Robin Vela and the CEO of BDO Zimbabwe, Mr Kudenga, that may have the propensity to prejudice investigations. They are in the same audit firm that was involved in the allegedly shady Tetrad/Interfin tripartite transaction amongst other transactions that further sheds doubt on the capacity of BDO Zimbabwe to operate in an uncompromised manner.”
“I, therefore, propose that in order to obtain a fair and credible audit, a totally independent audit firm may be urgently appointed, or that the forensic audit at Nssa be delayed slightly whilst investigations into the alleged misconduct are made.”
After this, Vela also wrote a counter dossier accusing Mliswa of having allegedly demanded a bribe from him and attempting to blackmail him.
Vela told Mnangagwa that Mliswa had little understanding of the functioning of corporate governance procedures, which he says were well entrenched at Nssa.