It is official. Entrepreneur Simbi Phiri of Khato Civils is taking the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to court to force the opposition bloc to withdraw malicious statements it issued against him.
A barrage of attacks was unleashed against Phiri, who is Khato Civils chairperson, following exchanges between him and UDC last week.
Hundreds of UDC followers took to social media after a screenshot of a one-line news segment on a popular and politically-charged Facebook private group, ‘All Parties Conference’, resulting in an outpour of vitriolic attacks and hate speech directed at Phiri.
Opposition parties’ supporters believed that based on the one-liner, they had been deeply ‘insulted’. To say the attacks on Phiri were highly charged would be an understatement.
The UDC would 24 hours later follow with a press statement of its own, further rubbing salt into the wound, as warmongering social media activists fed on the energy in black and white from UDC’s press release. The UDC would later reject Khato Civils’ demand for an apology as they challenged Phiri and his company to go to court, a stance that the company and its chairperson have gladly embraced.
The stage is now set for the grand war to be fought in the courts with the UDC having directed Phiri to their president, Duma Boko’s law firm address to send legal papers.
Phiri for the record is not one to let slander neither smear campaigns against his name or company go unchallenged.
He proved he does not take things lying down a few years ago when his competitors had spread untruths against him claiming that he was caught with millions of undeclared funds in the boot of his car whereas such an incident had never occurred.
Phiri also took on the might of the ruling party and government operatives in Malawi and won, as he successfully obtained an injunction from the High Court in Blantyre restraining the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadres from causing defamatory and malicious publication about his business. In the same case Phiri also successfully sued several Facebook pages, newspapers, journalists, and information peddlers that had been putting out misinformation targeting him during the run-up to the 2019 Malawi elections.
Even a bank owner who had sponsored media allegations targeting Phiri ended up on the losing end, and is currently in jail despite the size of his wealth, while that country’s then ruling party went on to lose the elections.
In the latest case in Botswana, his camp, after listening to the interview he gave on the Argus Online, is convinced that the one-liner that was used as a reference of Phiri’s utterances may have been deliberately misconstrued to achieve a certain political end.
In particular, to undermine the excellent work of Khato Civils on the recently celebrated successful delivery of the Masama 100km water project.
So determined to clear his name is that Phiri according to sources close to him, no amount of social media insults would hold him back from forcing the UDC and its information peddlers to pen the apology he demands.
According to sources, Phiri’s camp is even considering launching the lawsuit against the UDC in a different SADC jurisdiction other than Botswana, should circumstances force them into that eventuality.
Should he succeed, Phiri would become the first injured entity to legally limit how far social media information peddlers, including pseudo Facebook news pages can take their freedom of speech, as currently anything goes on Botswana’s social media space.