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Biti hit with costs for delaying US$1m defamation lawsuit

by Staff reporter
10 Aug 2023 at 06:43hrs | Views
CCC politician Tendai Biti has been hit with costs incurred by Augur Investments and its owner Mr Kenneth Sharpe over the US$1 million civil lawsuit against him for allegedly defaming the land developer.

He is being sued by Mr Sharpe, his company and the company's chief operations officer Ms Tatiana Aleshina.

Mr Biti has on four occasions, through his legal counsel, caused the postponement of the civil trial giving various excuses and the High Court now reckons that he needs to pay the extra expenses or compensate the extra losses incurred by the other party for three of those hearings.

The never ending delays to have the trial commence provoked Mr Sharpe to seek the court's intervention, arguing that the postponements have financially prejudiced him and the company.

Through his legal counsel, Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba, Mr Sharpe applied for costs against Mr Biti after his application in the Supreme Court had not only been struck off, but was also found to be incompetent at law, among other abortive hearings of the civil trial between January 10 and July 4 this year.

Mr Biti, represented by Professor Lovemore Madhuku, doggedly opposed the application for wasted costs asking the High Court to reserve costs until the final determination of the case.

Wasted costs are litigation costs which must be paid personally by a lawyer where a judge considers that lawyer has caused another party or the lawyer's own client to suffer unnecessary extra costs.

The costs amount to a penalty imposed by the court to mark its disapproval of the unreasonable or negligent way that lawyer would have conducted a case and so caused at least one of the parties to incur serious additional costs or losses.

Justice Tawanda Chitapi presiding over the matter allowed the application by Mr Sharpe over three of the four abortive hearings between January and July this year, finding merit in the application.

Mr Biti now has to pay the costs incurred by Mr Sharpe for the abortive hearings on 10 January, 6 March and 29 May, said Justice Chitapi. But these extra costs for the abortive hearing on 4 July were reserved, meaning it will be decided later if they were wasted.

In June this year, the Supreme Court dismissed Mr Biti's application for leave to appeal against a High court decision that Mr Sharpe could proceed to sue him.

The application was struck off the roll, with costs. In granting Mr Sharpe the order for wasted costs, Justice Chitapi noted that Mr Biti's application was no longer before the Supreme Court since it had been struck off the roll.

He said Mr Sharpe and his co-applicants were all along made to wait for the Supreme Court decision but there was no outcome of substance.

Mr Sharpe and his co-applicants were put out of pocket by attending court only for the matter failing to proceed because of what turned out to be an invalid process.

"In effect, the invalidity of the process which was struck off the roll means that the court was being sold a dummy in that there was no legally valid process before the Supreme Court," said the judge.

Augur and Mr Sharpe launched the defamation lawsuit against Mr Biti three years ago after the politician, in his twitter handle, named him as the most corrupt person looting Zimbabwe's resources.

However, Mr Biti objected to the defamation lawsuit but lost the case at High Court by way of a default judgment entered against him.

Mr Biti then approached the Supreme Court seeking leave to appeal against the decision by the High Court to dismiss an attempt to reject the defamation summons. But the Supreme Court struck the appeal application off the roll with costs on the basis that the motion was improper before the court.

The judge noted that the order of the High Court, which Mr Biti sought to challenge, was a default judgment hence the politician had to purge his default in the High Court first, and so had jumped the gun by approaching the Supreme Court.

The application was also filed after the lapse of the mandatory 10-day period stipulated in the Supreme Court rules within which he had to approach the court after the High Court refused leave to appeal.

Augur Investments is seeking US$500 000 damages from Mr Biti, with Mr Sharpe another US$400 000, and chief operations officer Tatiana Aleshina another US$100 000.

Mr Sharpe also cited the opposition party for pursuing a malicious agenda based on Mr Biti's tweets.

Sometime in December 2020, Mr Biti is alleged to have further published two other defamatory statements concerning Mr Sharpe and Ms Aleshina and several other prominent business people that he named as amongst a coterie of elite looters that were allegedly bleeding Zimbabwe.

Source - The Herald
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