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Thursday, April 4, 2024

Zimbabwe: High Court Dismisses Biti’s Defamation Appeal

THE High Court has dismissed an application by Harare lawyer Tendai Biti who is seeking condonation for late filing of heads of argument in a matter in which he is being sued for US$1 million for defamation by Augur Investments’ top executives, Mr Kenneth Raydon Sharpe and Mrs Tatiana Aleshina.

This follows a default judgment directing commencement of trial granted in favour of Augur Investments last year.

The lawyer-cum politician was also seeking the reversal of the default judgment, but the High Court did not make a determination on this request while ordering that trial should proceed.

Justice Gladys Mhuri dismissed Biti’s request, ruling that his explanation was unsatisfactory.

“In casu, the judgment in question was pronounced on 1 March 2023. This application was filed in June 2023,” ruled the judge.

“This was a three-month delay. This delay, in my view, and contrary to applicant’s submission, is inordinate.

“Applicant’s explanation for the delay was that he was pursuing the applications he had filed in the Supreme Court and after the striking off of his second application on 7 June 2023, he was trying to get reasons from the Supreme Court for the decision to strike off.

“I find applicant’s explanation to be totally unsatisfactory. It is trite that a default judgment is not appealable.”

Justice Mhuri also said Biti, as a senior legal official, was well versed with legal technicalities and should have known better.

She said Biti’s lawyer, Mr Tapiwa Chipandu, whom he had sent to represent him before her colleague, Justice Jacob Manzunzu, was present when the default judgment was issued, so Biti knew that a default judgment had been issued as of March 1, 2023.

“He, however, chose to take the route that he did at his own peril. His explanation is unsatisfactory; I find that he has failed to pass this hurdle.

“Applicant’s prospects of success are not bright. The adage, there must be finality to litigation, is apt in this case. In the result, applicant cannot be granted the indulgence he is seeking and to that end, I will not proceed to deal with the application for rescission,” Justice Mhuri ruled.

Biti was sued after he allegedly labelled Mr Sharpe one of the most corrupt people looting Zimbabwe’s resources.

Augur Investments is seeking US$500 000 in damages while its chief operations officer, Mrs Aleshina, is claiming US$100 000.

Kaylie Pferten
Kaylie Pferten
A pilot of submersible crafts in a former life, now married to my husband David and writing about investment advice.

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