Secret Service boss and Central Bank Governor launch WikiLeaks lawsuits

Robert Mugabe's Secret Service head retired Major General Happyton Bonyongwe is demanding US$10 million from Africa Consolidated Resources boss Mr Andrew Cranswick as damages for defamation over the information he reportedly supplied to WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono is also claiming US$12,5 million from The Standard News-paper over alleged defamation from the same source.

The two claims were made barely two days after the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe filed a US$15 million lawsuit against the same paper over the information sourced from WikiLeaks.

The three say reports published on the whistle-blowing website listing them among high-ranking and well-connected people benefiting from illegal diamond sales were false and damaging to their reputations.

Through his lawyer, Mr Joseph Mafusire of Scanlen and Holderness, Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe yesterday wrote to Mr Cranswick demanding the money while Dr Gono filed a US$12,5 million suit against the paper at the High Court.

Dr Gono’s lawyer Mr George Chikumbirike of Chikumbi-rike and Associates argues that the story published by The Standard on December 12 headlined “First Lady, Gono in diamond scandal — WikiLeaks” was false and highly defamatory of the Governor.

According to a letter from Rtd Maj Gen Bonyogwe’s lawyers, if the ACR boss failed to pay the money in five days, summons will be issued out at the High Court.

The report the CIO boss complained about was headlined “REGIME ELITES LOOTING DEADLY DIAMOND FIELD” and it was dispatched on December 8, 2009.

The letter of demand reads: “It is reported in that dispatch that according to you (Mr Cranswick) certain high-ranking Zimbabwean Government officials and well-connected elite were generating millions of dollars in personal income by engaging in illicit trade in diamonds from Chiadzwa mine in eastern Zimbabwe.

“Among other officials or personnel or officers in the Zimbabwean Government named by you was our client.”

The letter quoted a portion of the WikiLeaks report that reads: “Cranswick said that RBZ Governor Gideon Gono, Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, (the then) Mines and Mining Development Minister Amos Midzi, General Constantine Chiwenga and wife Jocelyn, CIO director Happyton Bonyongwe, Manicaland Governor Chris Mushohwe and several white Zimbabweans including Ken Sharpe, Greg Scott and Hendrick O’Neill, are involved in the Marange diamond trade”.

It is Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe’s contention that the report was false and he was never involved in any illegal trade of diamonds from Chiadzwa.

He feels the report that reached millions worldwide seriously defamed him and that he should be paid damages.

“Our client was never involved in any trade in diamonds from Chiadzwa or anywhere else. He has not been involved in any mineral of whatever kind in Zimbabwe or elsewhere,”

Mr Mafusire said.

Mr Cranswick’s conduct, the lawyer argues, has severely damaged Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe’s fame and reputation.

It has impugned his dignity and character, the lawyer said.

“As a result of your conduct, our client has suffered damages. He intends to clear his name. That is done by claiming damages for defamation. In the premises, we are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, payment of the sum of $10 million as damages for defamation.

“We regret to advise that unless we receive a tender of payment within five working days of the date of this letter, we shall issue summons without any further reference to you,” said Mr Mafusire.

Harare lawyer Mr Jonathan Samukange who usually represents ACR and Mr Cranswick said he had not seen the letter neither had he been instructed to handle the case.

“I have not received the said letter and if Mr Cranswick was surely served with that letter, I will simply wait for instructions from him,” said Mr Samukange. (Herald)