- It’s based on gossip and conjecture!
Dennis Tikhalo Mbingo, the CEO of First National Bank of Eswatini has come out to deny the allegations that were published about him by The Bridge, an online publication.
On Friday Mbingo obtained an order directing The Bridge to remove an allegedly defamatory article about him.
The article headed, ‘When unethical work relationships destroy a good man’, was written and published by a certain online publication known as “The Bridge”. The order by the court comes after Mbingo last Friday moved an urgent application at the High Court seeking an order for the removal of the article he said was defamatory.
Respondents in the matter are ‘The Bridge’ online publication, Mancoba Nxumalo, Mancoba Mabuza, and Veli Simelane.
In the interim order, the court also ordered the respondents to desist from further publication of the abovementioned and related stories perpetuating the allegations contained in the article.
Judge John Magagula, ordered the respondents to remove from the online publication, and all other internet social media platforms, the article written by Mabuza and published by the respondents on the internet, and the readers’ comments thereto.
In his founding affidavit Mbingo, submitted that on Saturday, August 8, 2021, he was contacted through a text message on the Messenger Text Message platform on a profile allegedly being that of one Toni Litchfield, which he suspected to be a fake profile, by either Mabuza or Nxumalo, enquiring about an article that they wished to publish.
He told the court that due to the fact that no verifiable identity of ‘The Bridge’ or the person messaging him could be ascertained, he declined to comment.
The CEO said indeed on August 8, 2021, the article was published.
Mbingo stated that the article contained untrue and highly defamatory allegations against him and several other parties. He pointed out that the article alleged that he had “a love for women and unethical relationship at work.” He denied this allegation and also highlighted that the respondents did not put forward any proof whatsoever with documentary or in other forms of a source willing to corroborate these allegations in the entire article.
“It is alleged that I had a sexual relationship with one Gugu Dlamini who was my personal assistant. The allegation is categorically denied and again the respondent failed to bring any proof to that effect,” said Mbingo.
The CEO submitted that the allegation was further aggravated by the fact that Gugu Dlamini, who was indeed his personal assistant, was a married woman and the reckless and defamatory allegations were damaging, not only to his (Mbingo) reputation but that of innocent third parties in the form of Gugu and her husband.
“In the article, it is alleged that I had sexual relationships with one Amanda Vilane and that this relationship caused animosity between my wife Ncamisile and Amanda Vilane who was a colleague of my then-wife,” said Mbingo.
He informed the court that he joined First National Bank in March 2015 and shortly thereafter, in May 2015, his relationship with his wife broke down and he left the marital home. The CEO claimed that at that time he had never met Vilane.
Mbingo alleged that by 2016, with his wife they then agreed that their marriage was no longer viable, and to that end they agreed in principle to divorce and they instructed a common lawyer to process their divorce, which was initiated by the said common lawyer.
“My relationship with Ms. Vilane began in 2017, the year as my divorce was finalized. Ms. Vilane had nothing to do with my divorce nor did she have anything to do with the breakdown of my marriage which happened way before I was involved with her. We went on to have a child together,” said the CEO.
He submitted to the court that the allegations that were made by the respondents in this regard were again untrue, based on gossip, rumor, and conjecture, and no proof whatsoever was placed before the readers of the online publication to substantiate these allegations.
“It is alleged that I had sexual relations with Linda Nxumalo, Human Resources Manager at the First National Bank. Again I deny these allegations and I challenge the respondents to produce proof,” he argued.
Mbingo also pointed out that it was further implied that he had a relationship with Zethu Dlamini, the bank’s Chief Marketing Officer. He again told the court that this was no true
“The article, in general, is untrue based on gossip and conjecture and there is no basis for these allegations except for unknown reasons that the respondents wish to bring pressure upon my employer to terminate my services as is expressed in a message which was sent to my daughter,” submitted Mbingo.
He said it was noted that the fake internet profiles had been created and he suspects it was created by the respondents themselves, which purport to comment on the story appearing in the first respondent ‘The Bridge’ and a profile in the name of ‘Amanda Zoe Vilane’ in which the impression is given that she is commenting on the article and verifying the details.”
Mbingo claimed that he contacted Vilane who told him that this was not her profile and that she never commented as alleged.
In support of Mbingo’s court application, Vilane filed an affidavit. She told the court that she read and perused Mbingo’s founding affidavit and in so far as the contents thereof referred to her were confirmed and were correct.
“I confirm also that the comments to the article complained of which are ascribed to me are not authored by me and are clearly from a fake profile created to give the impression that I am making those comments,” said Vilane.
She said not only were those not her comments but she would never make such comments about the applicant who was the father of his child.
The CEO is represented by Musa Sibandze of Musa M Sibandze and the interim order is returnable next week. The respondents are expected to show cause why the interim order should not be made final