Wrangle erupts over Boka auction floors

A WRANGLE has erupted over the control of the country’s largest tobacco auction floors after a company linked to its owners issued summons of eviction to a leading tobacco buyer currently occupying the premises.

Boka Investments (Pvt) Ltd, through its lawyers Scanlen & Holderness,  is pushing to evict three companies –– Third Line Trading, Onclass Investment and the Zimbabwe Tobacco Auction Centre (Zitac) — currently occupying Boka Tobacco Auction Floors accusing them of breaching a lease agreement.
The floors were built by the late businessmen and proponent of black empowerment Roger Boka in the 1990s.
“The plaintiff’s claim is for the eviction of defendant’s, and all those claiming occupation through them, from the premises known as Boka Tobacco Auction Floors which are situated on (the) 13 km peg along the Simon Mazorodze Road, Harare, together with costs of suit on an attorney and client scale, as more fully set out in the particulars of claim attached hereto,” reads the summons dated October 7 2010.
“Wherefore the plaintiff prays that within 48 hours of the date of this order the defendants, and all those claiming occupation through them, shall vacate the plaintiff’s premises known as the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors situated on the 13 kilometre peg along Simon Mazorodze Road, Harare, failing which the Sheriff for Zimbabwe, or his lawful deputy, or assistant deputy, and duly assisted by the Zimbabwe Republic Police, if need be, shall be entitled, directed, authorised and empowered to evict the defendants, and those claiming occupation through them, from the premises aforesaid and give vacant possession of the same to the plaintiff.”
When reached for comment on the status of the case, a lawyer representing Boka Investments Joseph Mafusire said, the defendants were intending to challenge the eviction.
“They have indicated that they want to defend the action (summons of eviction). So right now we are waiting for their ground of defence,” Mafusire said.
Efforts to get comment from Zitac were in vain at the time of going to press.
The fight for the floors, placed under judicial management in 2001 after Boka’s death in 1999, started after Boka Investments sought arbitration to reclaim the assets. The plaintiff was awarded an interim arbitration.
“By an interim award released to and served on the parties on 7th April 2010, the arbitrator found in favour of the plaintiff and ruled inter alia that the lease agreement was “pillared” on the basic rent, that the failure to pay it would constitute a serious breach going to the root of the very existence of the lease and that unless within seven days of the date of the receipt of the arbitration award the defendants provided the arbitrator with evidence that they had been remitting inter alia the basic rent for the period 1st April 2004 to 31st January 2009 into a declared trust account for the benefit of the plaintiff, it would stand as a principle that the defendants had breached the lease,” reads legal documents.
The defendants, according to the court papers, failed or refused to furnish the evidence within the prescribed time limits.
Zitac, together with two other auction floors, contributed to the 123 million kgs of the golden leaf that were traded this year.

 

Bernard Mpofu

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