MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, A COMMUNITY IS VIEWED THROUGH THE CONDUCT OF ITS LEADERS AND OPINION MAKERS. IT IS IN THIS LIGHT THAT I HOPE THE FOLLOWING STORY WILL SERVE AS A CAUTION TO THOSE OF US IN IT AND A WARNING TO THOSE WHO MAY FIND THEMSELVES IN A SIMILAR SITUATION.
So, here goes:
Something very disturbing is happening among us, the Zimbabwean community in Toronto. A fight of sorts between politicians and journalists, no less.
A fight that has a potential to damage personal reputations and community harmony in a foreign land.
The vice chairman for MDC Toronto, Mr. Andrew Mudzingwa is suing journalist Mrs. Mazvita Irene Mlambo for alleged damaging statements published on the MDC Toronto Yahoo Group.
According to a letter of intent to sue, sent to Mrs. Mlambo by Mr. Mudzingwa’s lawyers, Levine, Sherkin, Boussidan – Barristers, the MDC leader was particularly ticked off by Mrs. Mlambo’s assertions, on July 1st, 2006, that he was “involved in fistfights at parties” and “pilfering funds and benefiting himself”.
The letter stated that Mr. Mudzingwa will seek “general damages, special damages and aggravated damages together with interest and costs arising from your actions”. The journalist was given seven days from July 25th, 2006, to make “a clear and unequivocal apology and retraction” if she did not want the lawsuit to proceed.
Mrs. Mlambo is seeking legal advice.
Under normal circumstances, this matter would be stuff that makes interesting reading and the writer and readers alike would gleefully follow the whole saga as it unfolds. Except, this is really a sad example of how we, as a people excel at throwing pot shots at each other and rubbing each other with mud.
In fact, I am as much part of this saga as the two antagonists and I will explain how.
Sometime in January, in my capacity as a journalist, I asked a Mr. Cornellius Msimbe of MDC Dallas, what he thought of the split of the party in Zimbabwe. My idea was to find out how MDC members in the Diaspora were affected by the split and how they were reacting to it.
Mr. Msimbe contacted Mr. Andrew Manyevere, the chairman of the Toronto MDC to find out who I was. Despite that we lived as neighbours in Dallas and that my wife, was in his executive, Mr. Manyevere said he did not know me and he went on to call me such names as “prostitute”, “unclean” and “enemy of the people of Zimbabwe”. He went on to state, in the MDC Toronto Yahoo Group, that he was going to launch an inquiry into my activities.
A concerned MDC member forwarded Mr. Manyevere’s statement to me. I did the responsible thing, I e-mailed Mr. Manyevere seeking explanation – I never got it.
I also wrote to his executive, through vice chairman, Mr. Mudzingwa, seeking a clarification of my crime and why an Inquiry was being launched into my activities – I never got a response from him either.
Many, within MDC Toronto, urged me to sue for the same reasons that Mr. Mudzingwa is suing Mrs. Mlambo –defamation and possibly worse. I did not do that out of respect for Mr.Manyevere as an elder and also because I knew that I was far from being a “prostitute”, “unclean” or an “enemy” of anyone.
But then, sometime in June, Mr. Mudzingwa used the same MDC Toronto Yahoo Group to praise certain journalists at my expense. He implied that they knew journalism better than me because I wrote about faults in MDC Toronto.
Again I was urged to sue, but I did not even so much as react, again because of respect for Mr. Mudzingwa’s views and also because I know my trade and my work speaks for itself.
However, Mrs. Mlambo did not take kindly to Mr. Mudzingwa seeking to divide journalists and particularly for the MDC’s top leadership’s propensity to target me. She did not have to do this, but somebody had to defend our profession and she stood up for us.
Mr. Mudzingwa may feel that he has a right to sue Mrs. Mlambo and surely nobody can begrudge him that.
However, I just need to remind Mr. Mudzingwa that when he accepted his position in MDC, he should have known that all sorts of things will be thrown at him and a lot of his decisions and judgement willbe questioned, sometimes in not so charitable language. He, as a community leader should learn to accept some of these criticisms as a source of inspiration in his leadership role.
At stake, more than anything, is our reputation as Zimbabweans. We stand to lose more with this unnecessary fight than we can gain, individually or as a community.
TO READ MORE OF MY WRITING, PLEASE VISIT; www.torontosun.ca/News/Columnists/Madawo_Innocent/