Meikles in trouble over US$1,5m debt

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THE High Court has ordered the Sheriff to attach and take into execution movable goods worth US$1,5 million belonging to Meikles Limited, together with interest of 5% per annum, after the latter failed to pay a consultancy firm, Wide Free Private Limited trading as Core Solutions, for services offered in 2013.

By Wongai Zhangazha

The writ of execution dated May 30 follows a High Court judgment by Justice Esther Muremba in which she ruled that Meikles Limited pay Core Solutions US$1 492 970 and interest at the rate of 5% per annum from November 2015 to the date of full payment.

Muremba, in her judgment dated February 23, concurred with former High Court judge Moses Chinhengo who in May last year directed Meikles Limited to pay Core Solutions US$1,5 million plus interest.

However, Meikles Limited challenged Chinhengo’s judgement by filing an application for the review of the matter.

Muremba, however, ruled against the Meikles Limited application, arguing Meikles’ attitude during the case was “disrespectful” as they “deliberately” chose not to proceed with the matter despite being given an opportunity to present its case.

She also ordered Meikles to pay half of Core Solutions’ costs of arbitration and the costs of the application. According to High Court papers, Core Solutions and Meikles entered into an agreement in December 2013 where Core Solutions was mandated by Meikles to facilitate the repayment of a debt due to it by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

“It was a term of agreement that any dispute arising between the parties in connection with the agreement would be resolved through arbitration. After a successful completion of the mandate by the applicant, a dispute arose regarding how applicant (Core Solutions) was to be remunerated whether in Treasury Bills or in cash. For close to a year the dispute could not be resolved as the parties adopted diametrically opposed views,” read the court papers.

Core Solutions, due to the disagreements, approached the Commercial Arbitration Centre for the appointment of an arbitrator and, on November 15, 2015, Chinhengo was appointed.

“The respondent found excuses to stall the matter until March 2017 by giving endless excuses which ranged from unavailability of its attorney to unavailability of its witnesses. When the matter was finally dealt with on March 16, 2017 it was after the respondent had requested for that date. However, on 14 March 2017, the respondent had another excuse why the matter could not proceed on 16 March 2017, namely that its witnesses would be in South Africa. It was proposed that the matter be dealt with on the papers but that proposal was turned down,” reads Muremba’s judgement.

She said during the case Meikles was being “dilatory” as the case was postponed several times to April 3 2017. However, when the date approached, the respondent (Meikles) wrote a letter to the Commercial Arbitration Centre claiming that the arbitrator (Chinhengo) had already formed an opinion against its witness Thabani Mpofu.

“Apparently it was Mr Thabani Mpofu who wrote that letter. The letter was followed up by an application for recusal of the arbitrator. The application was dismissed with the respondent afforded a chance to prosecute its defence, but again the respondent chose not to avail its witness, the same Mr Thabani Mpofu. Naturally the law took its course and the matter proceeded in terms of Article 25 of the Arbitration Act. The arbitrator then made a decision on the basis of the pledges filed by both parties and evidence led by the applicant’s witness which evidence was subjected to cross examination by respondent’s counsel,” reads the judgement.

However, Meikles filed an application at the High Court seeking to review Chinhengo’s decision but the court upheld the judgement. “The arbitration was carried out in terms of the law and the respondent’s tricks to stall the proceedings and throw spanners in the whole process are a huge exercise in futility. The conduct of the respondent as represented by Mr Thabani Mpofu shows a complete disrespect and contempt of the arbitrator,” reads the judgment.

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