Court name
High Court of Tanzania

Amos Jonathan vs J.S. Masuka & Others () [1979] TZHC 4 (21 December 1979);

Law report citations
1983 TLR 201 (TZHC)
Media neutral citation
[1979] TZHC 4
Coram
Munyera, J.

Munyera, J.: This is a libel suit. The plaintiff was employed by the defunct Nyanza Industrial Company, a subsidiary of the former Mwanza Regional Co-operative union. D He worked as a clerk at a Nassa ginnery. The 1st defendant was an Administrative Manager, the 2nd and 3rd defendants were artisans at the same place. The 4th defendant was the employer of all three defendants as well as the plaintiff. In addition to their jobs, the 2nd and 3rd defendants were Chairman and Secretary respectively of the E Workers' Committee there. The plaintiff's duties included recording the names of casual workers in the master roll and preparing payments for them. On 9/8/73 the Ginnery Manager wrote a letter (EXD) to the plaintiff telling him that it had become known that he (plaintiff) was defrauding the Company by including false names in the F master roll and receiving their payments. He told him to offer an explanation by 10/8/73. On 14/8/73 the 1st defendant, the Administrative Manager, wrote to the plaintiff (EX.A) informing him that he had been dismissed with immediate effect because of his dishonesty and swindling of the Company. The plaintiff took the matter up with the workers G committee (2nd and 3rd defendants were Chairman and Secretary respectively). The committee investigated the complaint, made its deliberations and communicated the outcome to the plaintiff in a letter dated 6/9/73 (EX.B). The letter informed the plaintiff that it supported the management's action of dismissing him and that the committee was  H  not there to defend thieves. Later the plaintiff's affair was referred to the Conciliation Board which ruled that the plaintiff was wrongly dismissed and should be reinstated without loss of his career. The management refused saying they had no longer any faith in him. They however agreed to terminate his service with benefits instead of dismissal and I that was the end of the matter so far as the Company was concerned. On 14/5/74 the plaintiff

filed this suit claiming damages to the amount of shs. 30,000/=. The basis of plaintiff's A case is that the Administrative Manager (1st defendant), the 2nd and 3rd defendants defamed his character by calling him a thief. The 4th defendant was joined in its capacity as the employer of the first three defendants and bore vicarious liability for their vicarious actions. Both parties were represented by Counsel. B
This case turns around legal issues. Most of the facts have been admitted. It is agreed that there was publication and that the publication contained defamatory matter in that it accused the plaintiff of having committed a criminal offence. The question is whether the defendants have any defence. The Counsel for the plaintiff submitted that the only C defence that could be available to them is that of justification. In order to avail of that defence the defendants have not so proved and the court should find for the plaintiff. In the defendant's written statement of defence (para 6) it has been averred that the defendants made the publication bona fide without malice and on qualified privileged D occasion. Now to begin with, I would agree with the Counsel for plaintiff that the defence of justification will not help the defendants. They have not proved beyond reasonable doubts that the plaintiff committed the criminal offence they alleged in their letters (EX.A&B). But this is not the end of the matter. As argued in para 6 of the E written statement of defence and by the Defence Counsel, the defence of qualified privilege is available to the defendants.
Qualified privilege covers the publications of defamatory matter by a person who has a F legal, social or moral obligations to publish and the recipient has legal, social and moral duty to receive the publication. In this case the position runs like this: the 1st defendant was an Administrative Manager whose responsibility was to take care of the discipline of the workers of his organisation. He had powers to dismiss unbecoming workers, to G inform the latter why he dismissed him. The letter (EX.A) was copied to the ginnery Manager at the headquarters, various branch managers of the company, the personnel section and the accounts section all of whom had a duty to know of the situation. The publications never went beyond those people. The 2nd and 3rd defendants were H members of the Worker's Committee duly established under the Security of Employment Act. No. 62 of 1964. The plaintiff referred his complaint to the said committee which was legally bound to investigate the matter and make its decisions known to all concerned. The letter (EX.B) stated that it supported the action of the management (1st I defendant) and the publication never went beyond the people concerned with the

plaintiff's affairs. Therefore the defendants were doing their legal duty and had no malice A towards the plaintiff.
To find that what the defendants did amounted to defamation would create a far-reaching and a very dangerous precedent. No longer will an employer warn his employees for unbecoming conduct lest the grounds for dismissal would be taken as defamatory. B
I would dismiss this suit in its entirety with costs to the defendants.
C Order accordingly.
1983 TLR p204