Mahere pursues Gappah lawsuit despite apology

Fadzai Mahere and Petina Gappah


She reduces defamation claim from US$1 million to US$50 000

Top Zimbabwean lawyer, Fadzayi Mahere who is suing author Petina Gappah for defamation has reduced her claim from US$1 million to US$50 000.

The notice for amendment of the quantum was not read in court but Mahere persisted with the case despite Gappah issuing a retraction and apology last week, also promising to donate to a charity organisation of the former’s choice.

The two were in court before Justice Jacob Mafusire of High Court’s Commercial Division who adjourned the matter indefinitely after granting the notice of amendment and hearing submissions from both parties.

Gappah is expected to file her written closing submissions on June 17 while Mahere who is represented by Nokhuthula Moyo will file her on July 2 2024.

Under cross examination Mahere said Gappah was not sincere in her apology and retraction adding that it is clear that she is determined to persist with the defamatory allegations.

Mahere said the situation now looks like Gappah is using the court to further her mission to soil her reputation and that of her family.

“This is a continuation of the pattern of defamation against myself, my father and my family that the defendant has embarked on.

“Even though she says she retracted the defamatory statements and apologised, she is insisting with them.

“She continues to make the attacks and insists those statements were true which shows that is not sincere,” Mahere said.

“She seems to have a propensity to continue in these lines of defamatory statements,” she added.

Mahere said the incident was still very alive in people’s minds.

“The cycle of that statement is big. Six years later the statements are still embedded in the minds of family, people and everyone who read it and it is damaging.

Mahere hit back saying it was “the plaintiff (Mahere) who raised her father in this case, so it’s fair for me to raise those questions about him because she opened that door.”

Gappah also alleged that Mahere’s colleague David Coltart had made similar allegations against Mahere’s father.

Mahere’s lawyer objected to that line of questioning arguing that it was rather a comment not relevant for proceedings at hand.

“It is not an opportunity for the defendant to continue defaming the plaintiff and her family,” Moyo said.

The presiding judge was forced to interject as the situation got tense, advising Gappah against her conduct.

“As a self actor I must assist you in presenting your case. I want to caution you that even if you retracted and apologised, you need to be careful not to go back to the same issues that you have retracted. The case you are saying is specifically about damages. You might be unearthing issues that increase the damage.

“Confine your cross examination to the defamation of the defendant and the damages,” the judge warned.

Gappah then proceeded asking about the link between her statements and Mahere being called by derogatory titles.

Mahere said the statements indeed made her being labelled as a woman of loose morals.

“I get labelled as a woman of loose morals, husband snatcher, njapisi. The statements defame me and as a woman of loose sexual morals.

“She insists it is true and to this day she maintains that it is true, making fictional allegations of me having sexual relationships with different men.”

Gappah then complained to the judge for having a bias against her.

“It looks like what is being tried is the truthfulness of my statements so I would like to have clear instructions on why the plaintiff is allowed to make reference to statements about issues that I retracted and if I do so I get blocked from that,” she quirried.

But the judge was not pleased with Gappah’s conduct, noting that she was failing to understand his directives.

The judge was forced to adjourn the matter to his chambers stating that proceedings were becoming “fussy” and not in line with the rules of the court.

“You do not seem to appreciate my directive. You are the one who keeps asking questions that make the plaintiff go back to the same statements. Your cross examination is all over and I don’t see us finishing. You need to confine your cross examination to issues raised in evidence in chief,” said the judge.

Gappah insisted that she never said the issues that were now being attributed to her.

“The issue is that the statements being attributed to me are not true. I have never called the plaintiff a njapisi, husband snatcher. It was said by other people so why are they being referred to me,” she said.

The court however reminded that these issues were all on record.

Gappah continued with cross examination insisting that her statements did not stop or prejudice Mahere’s professional and political careers as well as her activism in any way.

She also pointed out to the fact that Mahere was appointed the spokesperson for MDC Alliance and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) after she had made statements against her.

Gappah also said Mahere had many other opportunities including having scholarships and a platform to speak on international events such as the Geneva International conference on human rights.

She also said her apology and retraction was more widely circulated than her initial statements which weighs in her favour.

Gappah also accused Mahere of exaggerating issues to the public.

However Mahere said this does not change the fact that the statements were defamatory.

“It is the “how I rise” that was affected.Everyone believes that I cheat my way to the top, that is what is irreparable harm. Of course I am a lawyer but because of the perceptions I will be called an unscrupulous lawyer, to this very day that an apology has been issued and some statements retracted, the defendant still maintains that the statements are true,” she said.

Mahere sued Gappah for soiling her image after she made several allegations, one being she had assisted her to redraft her Cambridge essay while rendering additional assistance for the spokesperson to enrol at Cambridge University.

Gappah also said Mahere was enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe with the help of her father who was a government official when she did not qualify.

She also accused her of trying to snatch her baby daddy among other things.

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