Judegment Day At The High Court London

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

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Reginald Mengi: Anti corruption conferences and corruption.

Reginald Mengi shown below right at the Fourth Pan African Anti-Corruption Conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania yesterday (5th June 2013).

 President Kikwete's Minister for Good Governance George Mkuchika (L), Tanzania's Chief Justice Mohammed Chande Othman (C) and IPP Executive Chairman Dr Reginald Mengi at Fourth Pan African Anti-Corruption Conference in Dsm yesterday (5th June 2013).

In 2004 Reginald Mengi’s brother Benjamin a hotelier and former business partner of Jeremy Lefroy, British Member of Parliament for the UK’s Stafford constituency since the 2010 election, assigned the lease to Silverdale and Mbono Farms (in the Hai district of the Kilimanjaro Region) to two British private investors in Tanzania, Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage. A year later he demanded the lease back on the basis that he had not been paid in full, despite having signed a receipt. Benjamin unilaterally declared the assignment void after the Tanzanian High Court had dismissed his application to set the assignment aside and evict the investors from the farms. He then harassed and intimidated the investors until they were forced to flee Tanzania in 2008 in fear of their lives and took possession of the farms.

In 2009 Sarah Hermitage started blogging about her experiences in Tanzania which she states gave her a voice and enabled her to “warn other people to not to go to Tanzania and not to invest, and because the British government is pouring copious amounts of money in to a country whose President travels around the world spouting rhetoric of good governance and upholding the rule of law, and there are some inconsistencies in that rhetoric which I felt needed to be recorded.” 
In her Blog, Hermitage alleged that IPP Media had facilitated a defamatory and biased campaign of journalism on the Silverdale Farm case which amounted to journalistic terrorism facilitating Benjamin Mengi’s corruption and campaign of harassment against them in order to grab their property and that Reginald Mengi knowingly encouraged that campaign and in effect was complicit in the destruction of British investment in Tanzania. 
Mengi sued Hermitage for Libel in the High Court in London  and the case was heard and successfully defended by Ms Hermitage in December 2012.

During the trial, no-one disputed that IPP Media’s coverage was slanted and biased. The only issue was Reginald Mengi’s role in it. Like Murdoch, he claimed he knew nothing. The Court also heard unchallenged evidence from Sarah Hermitage and her husband, Stewart Middleton, as to how they were by threats, intimidation and corruption driven from Tanzania and forced to abandon the investment they had made in their farm, Silverdale, of which Reginald Mengi’s younger brother, Benjamin, then took possession. 

The Court was told that a major factor in the ordeal they suffered was the hostile and defamatory coverage their case received from the IPP-owned English language Guardian and the Swahili Nipashe newspapers. Reginald Mengi, in the course of his evidence, repeatedly stated that he “was not responsible, not accountable and not answerable” for the editorial content of IPP publications.

In giving Judgment, Mr Justice Bean ruled: 
“I find that the campaign in the Guardian and Nipashe facilitated Benjamin’s corruption of local officials and intimidation of the Middletons and thus helped Benjamin to destroy their investments and grab their properties; and that Mr [Reginald] Mengi, since he either encouraged or knowingly permitted the campaign, was in that sense complicit in Benjamin’s corruption and intimidation. The allegation is thus substantially true, and justified at common law.”  

The judge concluded that Reginald Mengi appointed a team of loyal editors who lay down the party line and would publish nothing that criticized the Claimant or his family ruling that Reginald Mengi:- 

“encouraged the campaign in his newspapers to praise his brother and denigrate the Middletons; and did so by making senior editorial staff aware, through Mr Nguma [the in-house lawyer] or otherwise, of what line the journalists on the ground were expected to take.” 

After handing down judgment Mr Justice Bean ordered that Reginald Mengi should pay the defence costs at the higher “indemnity” rate. In reaching this decision, the factors cited by the Judge included that Counsel for Sarah Hermitage had “rightly described the litigation as 

“oppressive”, that “enormous costs had been thrown at the case from the beginning, indeed before the issue of proceedings” and that the evidence of the Claimant and his witnesses had in a number of respects been “misleading and untrue.”

The court in essence found that Reginald Mengi:-
·         Had lied to and misled the court.
·         Was complicit in corruption.
·         Had been guilty of criminal libel in Tanzanian criminal law, in the event – which was surely
      theoretical – that the authorities decided to prosecute him.

The Tanzanian government is keen to portray this case as a commercial dispute. It is not. It is simply, the failure of the Tanzanian government to recognise the law in Tanzania. The fundamental issues in this case are corruption and abuse of law. There is a simple choice facing the Tanzanian government. To support the rule of law and protect the lawful interests of bona fide investors or, the corruption and criminal interests of Tanzanians. So far it has chosen the latter. 

President Kikwete gave his personal promise to the British government that the rule of law would be upheld in this case. He has not kept this promise, the corruption in the Silverdale Farm case continues and men found guilty of corruption in Tanzania continue to state their commitment to fighting corruption with impunity and seemingly with the approval of the Tanzanian government.

 Reginald Mengi (C) attends the High Court in London in October 2012 where he failed in his efforts to sue British solicitor Sarah Hermitage for Libel.

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