in Diaspora, News, Politics / on December 25, 2013 at 6:09 am /
Zimbabwe’s outgoing ambassador to Australia Jacqueline Zwambila was won a defamation case against Herald newspaper columnist Reason Wafawarova who claimed in an article that she had taken off her clothes in protest during a heated meeting with embassy staff in 2010.
Last week a judge in Australia threw out the defence offered by Wafawarova who claimed that his report was true and in the public interest. The disrobing claims were published by the Zanu PF controlled state media newspaper ‘The Herald’ and also picked up by ‘The Australian’ newspaper.
Ambassador Zwambila subsequently sued both Wafawarova and The Australian’s publisher, News Limited for defamation in 2011. She argued in her papers that Wafawarova was motivated by malice as an ”agent of the Mugabe regime, which opposes [Ms Zwambila] and her party (MDC-T)”.
She also claimed damages for The Australian’s ”negligent journalism, in that it failed to contact the [ambassador] before publishing the item to attempt to verify such serious allegations about a person of her standing”.
Zwambila first demanded an apology and a retraction, and then took legal action when both the newspaper and Wafawarova ignored her requests.
In her application she sought damages for ”the particular shame she suffered, as a Zimbabwean national aware of her country’s cultural values and sexual mores, at being portrayed as she was”.
”The plaintiff has been greatly injured in her credit, reputation, and profession as a diplomat, and has been brought into public scandal, odium, and contempt,” a statement of claim filed in court said.
According to the Canberra Times newspaper Zwambila reached a confidential settlement with The Australian in March 2011.
But Wafawarova tried to defend his article arguing the allegations were true and in the public interest. He also argued the circumstances of publication meant Ms Zwambila was unlikely to sustain any harm.
The case stalled after Wafawarova repeatedly flouted court orders by failing to provide documents relevant to the case. On Friday Justice Hilary Penfold upheld an application by Ms Zwambila’s lawyers to have his defence struck out.
A hearing will now be held in April to decide the amount that Wafawarova must pay the ambassador.
‘‘She has advised that she finally feels vindicated and she can leave her official duty with her integrity intact. This sort case would not have even got to court in Zimbabwe. Ambassador Zwambila hopes that one day Zimbabwe will have a rule of law like Australia,’’ he said.