ITS, Suzan dispute 'purely commercial'

HARARE - A commercial dispute between International Travel Shops Africa (Private) Limited (ITS) and Kenya-based Suzan General Trading (Suzan) has been raging since 2012, documents show.

This comes as Vice President Joice Mujuru has been inadvertently sucked into the “duty free” scandal since she was copied in some of the complaint letters by ITS directors — to their Kenyan partners — as the late Solomon Mujuru’s estate administrator.

“It is a purely commercial dispute, which the parties are trying to resolve through negotiations,” ITS lawyer Tendai Masawi said in an interview yesterday.

“We are yet to have a roundtable conference, failing which the dispute shall be resolved through the Commercial Arbitration Centre (CAC) and in terms of the agreement,” he said, adding “the matter has been previously referred to the CAC, which has appointed an arbitrator to handle the same”.

While ITS and Suzan had entered a joint venture agreement to operate duty free shops at the Harare International Airport (HIA), problems arose when the later was accused of failure to account for perfume stocks or imported inventories, $55 000 in company funds and poor labour practices.

Amid claims that Mujuru and her family members had tried to muscle out their Dubai-backed partners through extrajudicial means, documents also show that the dispute had long been referred to the CAC, but Suzan’s lawyers had twice asked for a postponement of the matter to be heard or resolved.

In April 2013, Musunga and Associates wrote to the Harare-based centre explaining that they were still to come up with a pre-arbitration date as their clients were still consulting with their Dubai superiors.

And as late as September 29 this year, Suzan’s new lawyers Magwaliba and Kwirira Legal Practitioners also asked for a postponement of the process on the grounds that they were committed elsewhere, thus confirming that the matter has not been concluded at all.

“We received your confirmation for that date and time late, and could not arrange our client’s presence and the writer has had other commitments (unforeseen) scheduled for that day. We, therefore, request rescheduling of the meeting to beginning 6th October 2014 viz,” read the latest dispatch.

While ITS chairman Tirivanhu Mudariki — the late general’s primary business partner even in liquidated River Ranch Mine — had led the complaints against Suzan, documents also show that the partners had agreed to run separate or independent outlets and under an arrangement that still subsist today.

Essentially, the ex-Harare North legislator had raised issues surrounding stock levels and quality at their HIA shops, treatment of local workers, a lack of respect for the country’s laws and possible smuggling of goods.

Suzan operates under the Africa Duty-Free Investments banner.

 

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