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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 11:54 GMT
Mugabe ministers in court battle
Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
Moyo is the architect of Zimbabwe's tough media laws
Zimbabwe's controversial information minister is suing another cabinet minister, along with a senior ruling party official, for defamation.

Jonathan Moyo alleges that Lands Minister John Nkomo and Zanu-PF chief Dumiso Dabengwa said he had launched a "coup plot" against Mr Mugabe.

Mr Moyo was sacked from the top body of the Zanu-PF party in December as rival groups manoeuvred to succeed Mr Mugabe.

He has not been named as a candidate for this year's parliamentary poll.

Mr Moyo is the architect of Zimbabwe's tough media laws, which have seen the expulsion of foreign correspondents, the closure of the most popular daily paper and the threat of prison terms for journalists who work without a state licence.

'Fair name'

In claiming Z$2bn (US$320,000), he alleges that Mr Nkomo, who is also Zanu-PF chairman, and Mr Dubengwa told a public meeting:

"That the plaintiff had instigated, funded and led the hatching of a coup plot against President Robert Mugabe and others in the top leadership of Zanu-PF with the view of removing the national leadership of the government."

President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe has said he will not stand for re-election in 2008

He further says that they accused him of receiving "money sourced from foreign persons or countries hostile to Zimbabwe" and giving it to Zanu-PF members.

He said these statements had "damaged his fair name and reputation".

This is a reference to a meeting Mr Moyo held in order to campaign for Parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa to be named as vice-president - seen as a stepping stone to replace Mr Mugabe when he steps down, possibly in 2008.

Instead, Water Minister Joyce Mujuru was named vice-president last December and Mr Moyo and several other party officials were reprimanded.

Mr Mnangagwa was demoted in the Zanu-PF hierarchy.

Mr Mugabe has appealed for party unity after what observers describe as the most serious splits in Zanu-PF for 30 years.

The seat Mr Moyo had been hoping to contest in his home area of Tsholotsho, western Zimbabwe, was then reserved for women, as part of the party's policy to increase the number of women MPs.

This means he looks set to lose his cabinet post, as Mr Mugabe has said he will not have any of the 20 MPs he is allowed to appoint in his government.

Mr Moyo was appointed to parliament after the last parliamentary elections in 2000.

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