By Henry D Gombya
Reginald Mengi, Tanzania’s media mogul and the industrialist behind the IPP business conglomerate which is one of the largest industrial groups in East Africa, is today reeling from the loss of a lawsuit he was ill-advised to take against Sarah Hermitage who with her husband Stewart Middleton lost their farm in Tanzania at the hands of his [Mengi’s] brother Benjamin.
At the High Court in London Friday, Justice Bean ordered Mr Mengi to pay the costs of the lawsuit he brought against Ms Hermitage, estimated at £1.2million (approx. Tanzanian Shillings [TZS]3,072,389,052.43) after finding him guilty of either encouraging or knowingly permitting a hostile and defamatory coverage in his IPP Media-owned English Guardian and Swahili Nipashe newspapers.
Mr Mengi, the Executive Chairman of IPP Ltd, had taken the British couple to court in respect of five postings that appeared on Ms Hermitage’s blog as well as two emails Mr Mengi claims to be false and defamatory to him. During the trial that has lasted three weeks, the court heard evidence from both Sarah and Stewart relating to what happened to them in Tanzania when mostly through threats, intimidation and corruption, they were forced to abandon a farm they had bought from Benjamin Mengi, Reginald’s younger brother.
Mr Justice Bean ruled: “I find that the campaign in the Guardian and Nipashe facilitated Benjamin’s corruption of local officials and the 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 media mogul was not in court Friday morning after learning beforehand he had lost the case. Prior to today’s ruling, he had attended most of the court sessions, missing only one sitting, according to Mr Andrew Stephenson, from Carter-Ruck, the law firm that represented Ms Hermitage and her husband. Speaking by phone to The London Evening Post, Mr Stephenson said it had taken great courage for Ms Hermitage to take on Mr Mengi.