Zimbabwe's first lady has filed a $15 million lawsuit against a popular independent newspaper for publishing a story citing WikiLeaks cables alleging her involvement in illegal diamond deals.
According to GlobalPost's Andrew Meldrum, The Zimbabwe Standard, a Sunday weekly, has faced several lawsuits from the government. Its editor was arrested last month over reports that Mugabe is recruiting military to intimidate voters ahead of the June 2011 elections.
The Standard reported the details of a WikiLeaks cable dated 2008, in which former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee alleged that Grace Mugabe and Gideon Gono, the governor of the state central bank, "reaped tremendous profits" from corruption and the violence-plagued diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe. The Standard ran the story about Grace Mugabe on Dec. 12.
The president's wife described McGee's accusations as "false, scandalous, malicious, wrongful and defamatory," according to papers filed by Mugabe’s lawyers at the High Court in Harare.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, wanted in Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape, was freed from custody on bail after a court hearing Thursday.
In the cable, McGee implied Grace Mugabe was complicit in human rights violations and crimes two years before the world diamond control body authorized limited international sales of Zimbabwe's alluvial diamonds deposits, which were discovered in 2006.
Grace Mugabe questioned why only she and Gono were named as being involved in illicit diamond deals by McGee, who left Zimbabwe in 2009. She said in court documents that the newspaper's reporting is likely to be accepted without question by its readers, most of whom oppose her husband and his ZANU-PF party.
"The newspaper is taken seriously and carries considerable weight," said her statement.
She added that the newspaper has a wide readership that includes online readers abroad who are educated, well-informed and influential.
The newspaper's representatives did not say how they plan to handle the lawsuit.
Zimbabwe's diamond sales are still mired in disputes with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme over mining activities that the world control body says have met minimum international standards but must be improved before further sales are permitted.
Grace Mugabe, 45, married the president, 86, a decade ago. She said the newspaper's story damaged her reputation as "mother of the nation."
Grace Mugabe has three children with the elderly president. Reports of her extravagant overseas shopping trips and her lavish lifestyle have prompted the president's opponents to dub her "Disgrace."