Boka seeks order to access auction floors

Bernard Mpofu

BOKA Investments (Pvt) Ltd, a company controlled by late businessman Roger Boka’s family, has filed a High Court order seeking permission to access the family’s tobacco auction floors after tenants — Zitac — denied them access to the property.

The fight took a new twist when Zitac — current tenants at the Boka Tobacco Auction Floor — allegedly barred property owners from visiting the premises after the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) in November gave Boka Investments a January 7 2011 deadline to meet tobacco auction floor licensing requirements.

Earlier, High Court Justice Tendai Uchena “barred, restrained and interdicted” TIMB from issuing a tobacco auction licence to Zitac that would allow the auctioneer to buy the golden leaf from the auction floors. Zitac is challenging the order.

A lawyer representing Boka Investments, Joseph Mafusire asked the court for “reasonable” access to their property as the company gears up for the tobacco marketing season expected to start in mid-February.

Zitac has to date paid nearly US$1 million in rentals to Boka after an arbitrator ruled in favour of the property owners  amid charges of breaching a lease agreement signed in 2002.

“It is hereby ordered that the applicant be and hereby be allowed reasonable access to the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, situated at 13- kilometre peg, Simon Mazorodze Road, Harare..,” reads a High Court order dated December 24.

“The access shall be restricted to inspection of the premises and causing necessary repairs thereof. The access shall be exercised upon reasonable written notice being given to the respondents, through their Chief Executive Officer or the Security Manager, at least 48 hours before the initial visit to allow proper coordination and facilitation of the exercise after which oral notice to the said company representatives shall suffice.”

Boka Investments appealed for urgent chamber application as the company frantically raced against today’s inspection deadline set by TIMB.

“Not only is it in the national interest that the applicant be granted immediate access to guarantee an orderly marketing of tobacco next season, but also there will be no prejudice to the respondents whatsoever, who have simply locked up the front entrance for an alleged Christmas break even despite massive preparations required to be undertaken before the start of the 2011 marketing season,” argued Boka Investments in their Urgent Chamber Application.

The company also blamed Zitac for “massive and wanton damage” to the disputed property during their eight years of “chequered occupation”.

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