Harare High Court judge Justice Nyaradzo Priscilla Munangati-Manongwa has filed a $22 000 lawsuit against a United Nations employee, whom she accuses of defaming her.
The judge filed the lawsuit in 2014 when she was still a lawyer and representing the UN official Emmanuel Chinyamakobvu’s estranged wife, Sheila, in a divorce case.
The matter was heard yesterday before Justice Charles Hungwe.
Justice Munangati-Manongwa claimed that on November 27, 2014, Chinyamakobvu “intentionally and wrongfully published defamatory material” pertaining to her through an email addressed to his spouse Sheila Chinyamakobvu (nee Muzambe).
“On November 27, 2014, defendant (Chinyamakobvu) intentionally and wrongfully published defamatory material pertaining to plaintiff (Munangati-Manongwa) through an email addressed to his erstwhile spouse Sheila Chinyamakobvu (nee Muzambe) and blind-copied to plaintiff, which email was received through plaintiff’s main email domain and was accessed by plaintiff’s employees,” she said.
“The email stated for a fact that plaintiff is of ‘a dubious character and questionable social disposition’. It also falsely stated for a fact that plaintiff had caused the blocking of defendant’s account. The words had an effect of casting aspersions on plaintiff’s professional standing as required of its calling to be worthy, honourable, fit and proper.”
The judge further said a request through Chinyamakobvu’s lawyers to ask the UN official to desist from directly writing to his wife’s lawyer “met with more vitriol disdain”.
“Defendant labelled plaintiff as an incompetent person giving “un-thought through instructions” which work against her client. Defendant accused plaintiff of ‘kneejerk reactions’ which put into question her professional prowess and judgment,” Justice Munangati-Manongwa said.
“Defendant stated for a fact that plaintiff was giving this court ‘misleading information’. This conduct is unethical for a legal practitioner as an officer of this court and was understandable by the recipient to be defamatory and demeaning plaintiff’s professional worthy, thereby reducing her esteem among members of the legal profession and her employees.”
But Chinyamakobvu denied defaming the judge, adding “no defamatory material pertaining to plaintiff was published. In effect, publishing as envisaged by the law is completely denied.”
He added that the alleged email was addressed to his wife and was tackling the issue of her accommodation in Germany.
“The plaintiff does not handle the issue of the defendant’s house in Germany and has never been consulted about its sale in Germany. She (Munangati-Manongwa) certainly could not be the ‘most of them’ referred to in the email,” he said.
“There was nothing defamatory in the context of the email. The real issue revolved around the maintenance issue that is being handled in Germany. The statements were never published and the defendant does not harbour any grudge against the plaintiff.”