THE Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and two of its presenters are being sued for defamation by Topper and Laurinda Whitehead for alleging that the two fabricated th
e story of a man who was clinging to the back of their car and threatening them.
In early June ZBC flighted film footage of the man threatening to burn their car and claimed that the episode was stage-managed to coincide with the G8 meeting in France. ZBC said the man at the centre of the controversy might have been a journalist.
The two ZBC staffers who are being sued are David Ochieng and Tazzen Mandizvidza. Ochieng is a news presenter and Mandizvidza is the executive producer and presenter of programmes Behind the Camera and Media Watch, among others. Mandizvidza is being sued for $300 000, Ochieng $1,5 million and ZBC $1,8 million.
In all three claims Topper and Laurinda Whitehead said the sum should be with interest at the prescribed rate from June 11 to date of payment and include costs of the lawsuit.
In their affidavits, the couple have taken issue with Ochieng’s utterances that the video evidence was “concocted”.
“Tazzen Mandizvidza looks at the many concocted video clips shown extensively on Sky News today as part of the British attempts to demonise Zimbabwe,” Ochieng is alleged to have said.
The Whiteheads said the words were wrongful and defamatory.
ZBC did not retract or apologise after the plaintiffs’ lawyer wrote to them on June 19 demanding that they do so.
Topper Whitehead in an interview this week said the man jumped onto his car in an attempt to seize his camera.
“The man was infuriated when we captured footage of him and his colleagues attacking a man outside Meikles Hotel during the mass action called by the MDC,” said Whitehead.
“When the men saw that we were filming them they ran towards our car and we started off. Only one of them managed to cling onto the car and he was the one who was threatening us,” said Whitehead.
Whitehead said the man was a war veteran and police were handling the matter.
“We gave the police the person’s name,” said Topper.
“We have also indicated that the person moved from Sunningdale to a farm in Mazowe,” he said.
Ray Moyo, the lawyer representing the couple, said the police had at one time assured them that they had identified the suspect.
“The police said they had identified the suspect in Mazowe,” said Moyo. “They said a car had already been dispatched to pick him up. That was the last they communicated to us. We do not know what happened after that.”