Boka family moves to evict Zitac

tobacco_auction_floor_harareHARARE - Boka Investments (Pvt) Ltd has taken action to evict the Zimbabwe Industry Tobacco Auction Centre (Zitac) from the massive auction floors set up here by the late business mogul Roger Boka.


Zitac, which is run by senior Zanu (PF) official and self-styled president of the Zimbabwe Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU), Wilson Nyabonda is accused of not paying rent over a long period, destroying infrastructure and turning the world’s largest auction floors into a centre for “degenerate activies” including prostitution.

Boka’s lawyer, Joseph Mafusire of Scanlen and Holderness told The Zimbabwean last week that in addition to the eviction order – based on an arbitrator’s report – the company had also applied to the High Court to bar the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB), a statutory body, from giving Zitac a trading licence for the 2010/2011 marketing season.

“We’ve taken action to evict Zitac because they weren’t paying rent during the Zimdollar period. Sometimes they would default and the matter went for arbitration before Mr (Benjamin) Mutiti (of Mannock Holdings),” Mafusire said.

He said according to the contract, Zitac were supposed to pay commission on all the tobacco they sold and could sublet part of the premises and pay a percentage of all proceeds to Boka Investments.

This was not done, the lawyer revealed.

Mafusire also said the tenants had destroyed buildings and facilities at the auction floors and had constructed illegal structures since they took over in 2001. Zitac were given what is now viewed by the Boka family as a dubious 15-year-lease by a then judicial manager of the late Boka’s expansive estate.

“The arbitrator ruled that they were causing wanton destruction. They removed 2000 square metres of roofing sheets without approval. They also allowed trucks into the bays and one ripped off the lintels and the wind blew off the roof. The damage is extensive and they have not paid for any repairs,” the lawyer said.

Mafusire said Boka Investments had on October 15 initiated summons against the TIMB to prevent Zitac, whose parent companies are Third Line Private Limited and Onclass Investments, from being granted a new licence.

“We’ve taken action to stop TIMB from licensing them for 2010/11 season. What gets licensed are the auction floors. The floors are no longer available,” said Mafusire.

Boka Investments have also applied to register te arbitrator’s award, which states that Zitac owes $200 000 in unpaid commissions to the owners of the premises, amongst other charges.

Sources said Nyabonda and his associates were piling political pressure on the Boka family in an attempt to wrest the lucrative property from them. Earlier this year, Nyabonda claimed to have taken over the floors and even invited President Robert Mugabe and senior Zanu (PF) officials for a tour. The claims were rejected by the Boka family.

Court papers seen by The Zimbabwean confirm that Zitac has run down the property, which once had state of the art facilities.

“Zitac have created conditions conducive for prostitution to thrive at the floors by operating a disorderly and confused marketing method which has forced tobacco growers to spend several days and nights in, on, at and around the floors without accommodation and sanitary facilities,” the summons said.

Zitac’s lawyer, Johannes Muchada of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha declined to comment on the issue.

In an email in response to questions sent to him, he said: “As you are aware, most of the questions you have asked relate to matters that are pending before the courts. I am therefore constrained to comment on them for that reason. Further and in any event, even if I was in a position to comment I would need client’s permission before I do so.

Unfortunately, I have deliberately decided not to seek that permission, because I believe there is no need for either side to

argue its case in the media.I believe, the parties have the capabilities of resolving any disputes amicably.”

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