Zimbabwe First Lady to sue newspaper for printing WikiLeaked cable
On Dec. 12, The Standard newspaper in Zimbabwe printed a WikiLeaked cable calling out Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert Mugabe, for being wrapped up in a messy and largely illegal diamond trade. Mrs. Mugabe isn’t taking this revelation lightly. And she announced today that she is suing the newspaper for $15 million for defamation. The ...
On Dec. 12, The Standard newspaper in Zimbabwe printed a WikiLeaked cable calling out Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert Mugabe, for being wrapped up in a messy and largely illegal diamond trade. Mrs. Mugabe isn’t taking this revelation lightly. And she announced today that she is suing the newspaper for $15 million for defamation.
The cable in question is indeed damning. During a rare meeting with U.S. officials, a disillusioned mining executive, Andrew Cranswick of African Consolidated Resources, explained in detail how the illegal diamond trade is profiting Zimbabwe’s strongman. The summary reads like this:
The CEO of a British mining company described to us how 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 from the Chiadzwa mine in eastern Zimbabwe. They are selling the undocumented diamonds to a mix of foreign buyers including Belgians, Israelis, Lebanese, Russians and South Africans who smuggle them out of the country for cutting and resale elsewhere. Despite efforts to control the diamond site with police, the prospect of accessible diamonds lying just beneath the soil’s surface has attracted a swarm of several thousand local and foreign diggers. The police response has been violent, with a handful of homicides reported each week, though that number could grow as diggers arm themselves and attract police and army deserters to their ranks.
Grace Mugabe isn’t the only named. Also included in Cranswick’s blame list are the country’s central bank governor, vice president, and several other prominent individuals.
Of course, The Standard had nothing to do with the cable — they just printed it. Which raises alarming questions about the unanticipated consequences of WikiLeaks in less-than-democratic countries. The lawsuit names the publication’s editor, the journalist in question, and the media company as defendants. The heavy hand of tyranny falls on local journalists here, not on WikiLeaks or U.S. diplomats. And to be honest, most Zimbabweans probably already knew — or at least suspected — that the ruling elite were in on the diamond jackpot.