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16 Dec 2010 11:02
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s wife is suing a newspaper for $15-million for publishing a WikiLeaks cable saying she benefited from illicit diamond trade, media reported on Thursday.
Last week, the Standard newspaper quoting a cable sent by United States ambassador James McGee to Washington in 2008, reported that Grace Mugabe gained millions of dollars from illegal diamonds mining, in the Marange district of eastern Zimbabwe.
The state-owned Herald reported that the First Lady had on Wednesday filed the defamation suit against the Standard.
“The plaintiff is of high standing in Zimbabwe ... furthermore she is the wife of His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe,” Mugabe’s lawyer, George Chikumbirike said.
‘Mother of the nation’
“The imputation of such conduct on a person of such high standing, the mother of the nation, is to lower the respect with which is held by all right thinking persons, to a point of disappearance,” said the summons.
Chikumbirike said the article wrongly portrayed Grace as corrupt in that “she used her position as the First Lady to access diamonds clandestinely, enriching herself in circumstances in which the country was facing serious foreign currency shortages”.
In the cable, McGee says “high-ranking Zimbabwean government officials and well-connected elites are generating millions of dollars in personal income by hiring teams of diggers to hand-extract diamonds”.
The cable then discussed a meeting with Andrew Cranswick, chief executive of the British mining firm African Consolidates Resources, that had a claim to the Chiadzwa mine revoked by the Harare government, according to McGee.
“According to Cranswick, there is a small group of high-ranking Zimbabwean officials who have been extracting tremendous diamond profits from Chiadzwa,” it said, naming Mugabe’s wife Grace and Central Bank governor Gideon Gono.
Other Zimbabwean government officials implicated in the scandal include Vice-President Joyce Mujuru and the head of the army, General Constantine Chiwenga, according to the cable.
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