A Silobela woman is facing a $45 million lawsuit over a defamatory statement she published on a public post in a Facebook group to expose a couple that she claimed duped her of hard-earned cash and were refusing to settle their debt.
Ms Loice Siziba of Canaan Village under Chief Gobo, Silobela — will now have to defend the suit filed by Mr Given Mapukute and his wife Ruramai Nhakuzah at the High Court, who are claiming to have their reputation damaged and lost business because of the statement.
The suit against Siziba arose in February this year, when she sent an offensive text message to the couple in an attempt to threaten them to pay back her money amounting to between US$3 000 and US$4 000.
The text message reads: “Good morning, I’m done with your nonsense I’m going to sort you guys out not nzira yelaw (not the legal way) coz you seem to be stubborn.
“I’m going to go on and pay strongest sangoma (witch-doctor) like Baba Banda you whole family will suffer. Please save this message you will come for help (sic) it will be too late.”
It is alleged that Siziba last month caused the defamatory statement to be published on the Facebook Group wall, styled “Verified 11 Exposing Zim shurugwis all over the world”.
In the claim filed at the High Court last week, the couple is demanding $45 million from Siziba for her conduct and that she be compelled to cause the defamatory statement pulled down from Facebook within 48hours of the granting of the order.
According to the summons, the couple are asking the court to grant them damages for defamation in the sum of $5million, actual loss of business in the sum of $25 million and loss of future business $15 million plus costs of suit.
Through their lawyers Muvingi and Mugadza Legal Practitioners, the couple claimed that the woman’s Facebook group is a widely distributed platform and available to the general public both in country and across the entire world as it is available on the internet.
It is argued that Siziba’s defamatory statement made in the public post stated that she entered into a business venture with Nhakuzah, but the couple conned her of her money in the sum of US$3 000 to US$4 000 and that they had victimised her by making a police report against her, yet they owed her money, which they should pay back.
“The said words, in the context of the said defamatory statement in the public post, are wrongful and defamatory of the plaintiffs (couple) in that they were intended and were understood by readers of the post to mean that plaintiffs are dishonest in that they venture into business with innocent people, but defraud them of their hard earned cash,” read the summons.
The defamatory statement was made with the intention to defame the couple and to injure their reputation, said the lawyers.
In addition, the lawyers say the defamatory statement has been harmful towards the plaintiffs’ reputation, integrity and good name as business people, who are well known both in their business circles and their community.
It is argued that as a result of the said defamatory statement being made on such a public platform, Mr Mapukute lost a tender worth an equivalent value of the sum of $25 million, after the procurement committee of the tender, during an assessment of suitability and investigation on him came across the public post.
Further to that, couple claim that also risk losing future business. “This is because, each time any person searches for couple’s names on
Facebook, the post is the first post that pops up on the Facebook newsfeed,” said the couple.
“As a result of the defamation, the plaintiffs’ have also suffered psychological trauma, stress, and anxiety for the loss of the tender and the risk of future business loss.” Ms Siziba is yet to respond to the claim.