Judegment Day At The High Court London

Judegment Day At The High Court London
Mengi v Hermitage: Libel Claim Successfully Defended

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


In early 2006, Benjamin Mengi sued British investors Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage for statements printed by the Daily News in June 2006 (see article below).

The investors did not print, publish or write the article (the Daily News did so) and therefore could not be sued for Libel. Despite representations to the Chief Justice and Public Corruption Bureau (who agreed the proceedings were abusive) the Moshi Magistrates (magistrate Mkisi) court allowed and heard the plaint and gave judgement to Mengi for TSH 90,000,000 ($90,000). Following this and despite further representations from the British Government, the courts ordered seizure of the investors property in October 2007 on the basis of the court ruling.
The couple’s lawyer appealed the ruling and was summoned by the Moshi High Court (appeals division) to attend court on 27th February 2009 for a mention of the case. On appearance, the court stated that the appeal had been struck out two weeks earlier. The lawyer immediately filed an application to set the order aside and was told this week that the application could now not proceed as the court had ‘lost the file’.

Benjamin Mengi initiated the litigation against the investors in what is now widely known as the ‘Silverdale Case’. In May 2004 Benjamin and Millie Mengi, through their company Fiona Tanzania Ltd sold the lease to Silverdale & Mbono Farms (Hai District) to the investors company, Silverdale Tanzania Ltd and one year later, after negotiating to sell the lease a second time to British Investor Konrad Legg (Tudeley Estates) demanded the lease back. The litigation followed the investor’s refusal to do so together with fourteen other cases the investors describe as vexatious having no legal basis.

Tanzania’s most senior law officer Chief Justice Augustino Ramdhani, assured the British government in 2007, that he would review the cases against the investors and particularly that the above appeal would be heard. Having held up the cases in court for over eighteen months, the Chief Justice stated in January 2009 that he had changed his mind and would now not review the cases. He gave no reason for changing his mind. However, after continuous dialogue with former British High Commissioner to Tanzania Philip Parham, on the above appeal, he gave his assurances that the appeal would be heard.

The case was struck our three weeks after Mr. Parham left Tanzania.

Former British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Andrew Pocock describes the ‘Silverdale Case’ as a continuing outrage and in February 2008, the British Foreign and Commonwealth office in London, issued a statement to the BBC, that it had ‘..credible evidence of harassment and intimidation against the investors’. Despite several assurances to the British government from President Kikwete, that the ‘Silverdale Case’ would be fairly resolved, it remains very much unresolved and, set to undermine Tanzania’s commitment to the rule of law for the foreseeable future.

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