HARARE – In a surprising move, flamboyant Zimbabwean preacher Emmanuel Makandiwa has withdrawn his multi-million dollar legal action against the Daily News — without giving the court reasons for changing his mind.
The 36-year-old, who commands a large following in the country and claims powers to perform amazing miracles, was demanding $2 million from the Daily News, alleging that the newspaper had defamed him by linking him to a property feud which once rocked the Anglican church.
“Take notice that plaintiff hereby withdraws his action with each party bearing its costs,” reads a notice of withdrawal filed by Makandiwa’s lawyer Nickel Mushangwe on Tuesday.
The matter, which was being handled by High Court judge Chinembiri Bhunu, had been slotted for a pre-trial conference yesterday after the court had earlier ordered Makandiwa to appear before it in person.
The plaintiff has to be present or at least give his proxy power of attorney to his representatives in any defamation case.
Confusion rocked the case at the beginning of the matter as various law firms stampeded to try and represent the lanky “prophet” — with Mushangwe eventually emerging as the designated representative.
Interestingly too, this is not the first time the matter has been withdrawn.
On December 14 last year, Tamuka Moyo and Attorneys, who claimed to be representing Makandiwa then, wrote to the Daily News “withdrawing” the legal action.
“In light of recent developments and after consultation with our client, we shall not be
taking any further legal action,” they wrote in the letter.
However, on the same day, Mushangwe and Company Legal Practitioners also wrote a letter claiming to be the sole law firm representing Makandiwa.
“We request that you disregard any such communication…,” they said referring to the letter by Tamuka Moyo and Attorneys.
The case related to a poster in which the Daily News mistakenly wrote the name of the self-proclaimed prophet instead of renegade Anglican Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga.
Although the Daily News published an apology immediately, Makandiwa remained dissatisfied, leading to him seeking recourse from the courts. This was also despite the fact that on December 5, the Daily News also wrote a personal letter to Makandiwa, explaining and apologising for the unwitting error.
Part of the letter read: “The publication of the poster was a genuine error on our part, for which we sincerely apologise. The error came about because the previous day, the Daily News had a poster with the name Makandiwa and when fresh posters were being designed, they completely forgot to replace Makandiwa with Banks”.
But Makandiwa, through his lawyers, wanted more from the Daily News.
“After demand for a retraction and apology from the plaintiff, the defendant published a half-hearted apology. It was not a full, unconditional and unreserved withdrawal of all importations or imputations together with an expression of regret,” Makandiwa argued, saying the retraction did not get the same prominence as the banner.
In the application, Makandiwa surprisingly argued that the poster linked him to acts of violence, infighting and internal church squabbles associated with the Anglican Church dispute.
“The poster and online publications created the impression in the mind of a reasonable diligent reader that the plaintiff (Makandiwa) was involved in the controversial and sensational Anglican saga, which involved acts of violence, infighting and internal squabbles within opposing factions of the Anglican Church,” read the declaration.
The poster, according to Makandiwa’s lawyer, diminished the esteem of the “prophet” in the eyes of the nation and the whole world since “he is internationally recognised for his gift of preaching, healing and prophecy”.
But the Daily News vigorously challenged these assertions.
The paper’s acclaimed legal representative, Alec Muchadehama, questioned if indeed Makandiwa was a gifted, charismatic preacher and prophet, and challenged him to prove the claims.
“Defendant has no knowledge of plaintiff being a gifted and charismatic preacher and prophet.
“Defendant will put the plaintiff to the proof of these averments,” read part papers filed by Muchadehama, adding that: “In any event the reference of being ‘sucked in’ is not in itself defamatory. There was nothing defamatory in the publication.
“No reasonable person will think badly about plaintiff by merely seeing the poster and without regard to the story,” Muchadehama said. – Tendai Kamhungira