Under-fire Shah asks judge to block property seizure

HARARE - Businessman Jayesh Shah has approached the High Court seeking to quash a court ruling forcing him to surrender to businessman Christopher Wesley Takura Tande title deeds to land earmarked for residential properties.

Tande is the founder and executive chairperson of Equity Properties (Pvt) Ltd, which is currently developing the investment property at Lot 3 of Bannockburn into a residential suburb called the Golden CT suburb. The area consists of residential and commercial stands.

Tande, who is also the director and founder of re-licensed Time Bank, offered his Lot 3 of Bannockburn land to Interfin as collateral to enable him to get a $2,2 million loan.

Interfin closed in June 2012, due to a liquidity crisis. 

Tande’s Equity Properties had sold more than 300 stands at Lot 3 of Bannockburn to home-seekers, which land was encumbered by the loan.

The people who purchased the stands have told the court they invested more than $30 million in the property and want the court to force Shah to surrender the title deeds.

Shah’s company, Al Shams Global, acquired a stake in Interfin through a loan it had advanced to the bank Shah’s company Al Shams Global then seized Tande’s Equity Properties’ title deeds and Bankers Acceptances unlawfully from Interfin, it is alleged, during the time the bank’s assets were being liquidated to pay creditors.

Tande said he did not consent to the surrender of his title deeds to Shah by the bank.

Tande repaid the $2,2m loan in full, but Shah refused to surrender the title deeds to him.

Tande then approached the High Court, and obtained an order to enable him to start the process to attach Shah’s properties to recover the money he repaid to the bank.

The court granted Equity Properties leave to serve summons and a declaration in respect of its claims for vindication of its property and attendant delictual damages against Al Shams Global.

This was after Tande had successfully argued that Interfin had his title deeds in its possession and breached an agreement to hand them over promptly on demand, to keep them safe and not to hand them over to a third party without his consent as has happened.

Shah is now seeking to rescind that judgment, citing peregrinus — a law that does not allow locals to sue a foreigner or a person not domiciled or resident in Zimbabwe.

Shah in his application for rescission of judgment, which will be heard before the High Court on Monday at 10 am, argues that the court must not take on itself the adjudication of a dispute if, at the end of the proceedings, it would be unable to enforce its judgment.

Shah’s argument has outraged the 300 homeseekers who were set to get title deeds to their stands.

One of the home seekers, Paul Upenyu Esau Chidawanyika, who bought residential stand number 2148 of Lot 3 of Bannockburn, has applied to the High Court to join Tande as an additional party into the proceedings on Monday, where Shah is seeking to stop the attachment of his properties by Tande.

High Court judge Nyaradzo Priscilla Munangati-Manongwa will consider tomorrow whether there was a good arguable case against Shah, and also consider arguments pitched by Chidawanyika relating to peregrinus, that it was unconstitutional under the new charter adopted in May 2013.

“It does not make sense to interpret the laws including the Constitution in a way that violates constitutional rights. In this regard by seeking a rescission of the judgment under case HC3254/17, Mr Jayesh Shah’s company is tantamount to saying ‘I can sue you but you are not allowed to sue me because I am a foreign company (peregrinus) even if I am making money unlawfully from your country. As a foreign company I have access to your courts but you do not have such access,” Chidawanyika said.

“Surely such interpretation of the law is wrong and unjust as it is devoid of basic respect for justice and human dignity of local people as well as equality before the law. Such peregrinus law appears to be a colonial relic which is out of line with our new Constitution.

“In this regard, the application for joinder will basically ensure that there is a fair hearing on the matters against ...Shah’s company.”

Chidawanyika told the court that under his agreement of sale with Tande’s Equity Properties, the real estate firm had undertook to transfer stand 2148 to him.

“However, to date, Equity Properties has not tendered transfer of the stand because ...Shah’s company is holding the title deed of Equity Properties and preventing transfer of its subdivisions.”

Chidawanyika further argued it was clear that Equity Properties is unable to transfer the title deed of his stand unless Al Shams Global releases the title deed.

He said when he inquired with Tande’s company on progress in the matter against Shah’s company; he was advised that Equity properties was moving to file a case for vindication of its property.

“Hence I also intend to enjoin such vindication case against Al Shams Global as soon as my application for joinder has been approved in order to protect my interest.”

Chidawanyika further argues “Al Shams Global’s claim should be on Interfin and not on Equity Properties or on my stand because Equity paid Interfin its money fully.”

“Al Shams Global should go to Interfin to get its money and in the meantime release Equity Properties title deed and my stand,” he said.

“Al Shams Global cannot continue to hold Equity Properties title deed to the prejudice of over 300 stand purchasers. Principles of natural justice and balance of convenience must be upheld.

“One person cannot unlawfully hold on to a title deed at the inconvenience of over 300 people,” he said Chidawanyika told the court Shah’s company wants its property of $2,2 million freed from attachment but it does not want to free properties worth more than $30 million belonging to more than 300 people who bought stands from Equity Properties.

He added: “We are all equal before the law. Al Shams Global cannot enjoy certain legal privileges such as the peregrinus law when it is exploiting and prejudicing hard working citizens who are attempting to make an honest living in a very difficult and challenging environment,” Chidawanyika said, calling for the Deposit Protection Corporation to institute legal action against Shah’s company.

Not much is known of Shah’s source of wealth but it has its history in Kenya and Zambia.

He has been described as a “loan shark” assuming the role of a central bank by playing lender of last resort, a charge the businessman disputes.

Apart from Gift Investments, a Zimbabwean company that supplied buses to Zupco and other local companies, Saturn Trading Investment and more recently Al Shams, a United Arab Emirates company, his business interests remain shrouded in mystery.

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