While Ms Hermitage’s case was taken on by Messrs Carter-Ruck on a ‘no win, no pay’ agreement, she with her husband Stewart stood to lose everything they owned and would have had to sell their house to pay Mr Mengi had they lost the case. He had demanded £300,000 in legal costs before the proceedings had started. Speaking to The London Evening Post on the day the case started being heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mrs Hermitage told us: “I am scared!” She feared that losing the case would mean only one thing for her and Stewart; bankruptcy.
In a statement issued through her lawyers, Ms Hermitage said: “I set up my Silverdale Farm blog in 2009 to document our horrific experience in Tanzania and to expose as a warning for others the corruption we encountered and our helplessness with no protection from the local courts and officials.” She went on to say that her response to the campaign waged against them by IPP Media was ‘reasonable, proportionate, relevant and without malice’.
“I am relieved that, with the support of my legal team…justice has in the end prevailed in this case,” Ms Hermitage said. She went on to thank ‘the brave and honest Tanzanian journalists’ who she said had ‘either openly or privately assisted in the preparation of’ their case. “I will continue to use my blog, my voice, to do all I can to fight against the corruption I have seen first-hand in Tanzania, not least in the hope that it may in the end help the very good people, not least our loyal staff, who have stood by us throughout,” she said.
The IPP group which Mr Mengi heads is one of the largest industrial groups in East Africa. Among other activities, it includes a Financial Consulting firm (IPP Consulting), a soft drink bottling company in a joint venture with Coca-Cola (Coca-Cola Kwanza, Bonite Bottlers and Kilimanjaro Spring Water), Tanzania’s leading manufacturer of soaps, detergents, and toothpaste (IPP Bodycare Ltd), as well as a media unit (IPP Media) made up of eleven newspapers, three radio stations, and two television channels, one of which operates in each of the three original East African countries; Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.