Prominent preacher Emmanuel Makandiwa has been forced to deny asking the Zimbabwe Media Commission to close down a newspaper he accuses of defaming him.

Makandiwa recently withdrew a US$2 million libel claim against the Daily News, his lawyers say after the newspaper agreed to publish a prominent apology and a letter written by its editor to the United Family International Church founder.

The Daily News, however, only reported that Makandiwa dropped the court action unexpectedly and made no reference to what his lawyers say were conditions for withdrawal of the claim.

Last Friday, the Daily News reported that Makandiwa’s lawyers had written to the Media Commission asking it to “severely punish” the paper. In another report titled ‘Knives out for Makandiwa’ last Saturday, the paper claimed “Makandiwa has received brickbats for his drive to have the Daily News shut down”.

Citing various media groups apparently defending it, the Daily News said Makandiwa’s request for the ZMC to “severely punish” the paper was “a move more associated with war mongering… he is now under fire for wielding the axe, an action which observers say is far removed from Biblical teachings.”

Makandiwa, through his lawyers, responded on Sunday to deny he had asked for the Daily News to be shut down and accused the newspaper of printing lies.

“The entire article is an attack on the person of Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and is unwarranted. The attack is on his integrity as a prominent preacher. He is not the one who wrote the letter so the attack is misdirected,” the lawyers said in a statement.

“We never made representations to the Media Commission that the Daily News should be punished by closing it. There are several sentencing options open to the Media Commission in the event of a journalist or media house being found to have committed an act of misconduct.

“The Commission in its discretion can impose a fine or even reprimand or order an apology and retraction.”

Makandiwa, 36, sued the newspaper after it published street banners in December last year advertising one of their main stories proclaiming: ‘Anglican saga sucks in Makandiwa’.

Although the banners were displayed in the streets, the newspaper contained no corresponding story and the error was blamed on sub-editors, with the newspaper’s editor Stanley Gama saying the street banners should have in fact read: ‘Anglican saga sucks in banks’.

The Daily News apologised in a letter to Makandiwa and published a retraction in its inside pages – but that did not satisfy the charismatic preacher who served the huge lawsuit, now withdrawn.

Makandiwa’s legal team says it is asking the ZMC to order a prominent apology and retraction. Although acknowledging an apology from the Daily News, the team said the apology was not given prominence as was the defamatory poster.

“They published a retraction and apology tagged at the far corner of the second page such that few people were attracted to it.

“The Daily News did not disclose the reason behind the withdrawal [of the lawsuit]. Our client was depicted as someone who has an unquenchable appetite for court action. It was suggested that his claim had no merit and that he withdrew the matter because he knew that he was going to lose.

“The reasons of the withdrawal were that the Daily News had agreed to publish a prominent apology and retraction and also publish the letter of apology written to our client.”