By Mashudu Netsianda
BULAWAYO – Prominent lawyer Professor Welshman Ncube on Monday sneaked out of the Bulawayo High Court through a back door with the help of police following threats by a group of war veterans who had lost a case.
The group, comprising about 30 ZEXCOM Foundation Fund Limited shareholders, caused a scene at the High Court soon after they lost a case against Barbra Lunga, the company’s liquidator, in the fight over the control of company properties.
Ncube, who was representing Lunga in the matter, was whisked away by police as the irate war veterans stood in front of the court’s main entrance waiting for him to leave the building soon after Justice Francis Bere’s ruling.
The war veterans, led by Jona Gumo Mawire, Shelter Mpofu, Prince Nyepanai Guta and Tongai Samunda, thronged the High Court apparently hoping that the judgment would be in their favour.
“Soon after the ruling, we got out of the courtroom and they (war veterans) confronted me demanding that I give an explanation on why the judge ruled in my client’s favour. I told them to approach their lawyer who apparently had come to court unprepared.
“It looks like their lawyer from Harare wasn’t aware of the matter and was only told about it when he had actually visited Bulawayo for a different case at the Labour Court,” said Ncube.
The group stood outside the court’s main entrance chanting slogans denouncing Ncube and Lunga. “Welshman (Ncube) isn’t a professional lawyer. How can he allow a selfish and greedy person like Barbra to use him for her own ends? We demand to see him so that he explains to us his exact role, failure of which we’ll deal with him,” said the war veterans.
Ncube and his legal team left the court building after close to an hour holed up inside. They were later driven away in a tinted Isuzu pick up.
In May, ZEXCOM shareholders threatened to demonstrate against the justice system claiming they have exhausted all channels to have the judicial manager appointed to run their companies removed.
The war veterans accuse Lunga of allegedly abusing funds, claiming that since the placement of ZEXCOM under judicial management, they have not benefited anything.
ZEXCOM, whose assets are now valued at $2 million, was placed under liquidation in January last year following its collapse due to alleged mismanagement. Lunga, the liquidator, is the applicant while Mawire, Samunda, Guta, the ZEXCOM coordinator Mpofu and the Deputy Master of the High Court were cited as respondents.
In her founding affidavit, Lunga sought an order permanently interdicting and prohibiting the respondents from interfering with the running of ZEXCOM Foundation Investment Fund Limited, holding funds on behalf of the company and visiting its properties.
She accused the war veterans of illegally taking control of all ZEXCOM properties and hiring a security company and a legal firm, Mbizo, Muchadehama and Makoni Partners.
“The law firm issued a series of letters of demand requiring individual tenants to pay incredible sums ranging between $15,000 and $25,000 to their bank account,” she said.
Lunga also wants the respondents to render full account to her for all the money previously held by the Deputy Master of the High Court on behalf of ZEXCOM Foundation Investment Fund Limited.
She also wants the respondents to surrender all the money that they collected from rentals within 14 days of the order, failure of which they should be sentenced to 90 days in jail for contempt of court.
Justice Bere ordered the respondents to vacate all ZEXCOM properties and barred them from interfering with Lunga’s duties as the company’s provisional liquidator.
“The respondents and all those claiming through them or occupying any of the ZEXCOM properties without lawful authority of the provisional liquidator be and hereby ordered to forthwith and upon service of this order vacate all ZEXCOM properties,” ruled the judge.
One of the ZEXCOM properties, Equity House was in May shut down by the Harare City Council for failure to pay water bills and rates amounting to almost $42,000.
The company’s books are said to be in shambles with no records of how many shareholders are there and how much is being generated per month. The company, which was established in 1998 by former freedom fighters, has a membership base of 7,000 and owns properties in Bulawayo, Harare and Murehwa.
In Harare, the properties owned by ZEXCOM include Equity House, a seven storey building that generates about $13,000 in rentals monthly. It owns another building in Bulawayo and a commercial complex in Murehwa.
The troubled firm was placed under provisional liquidation after one of the shareholders, Eliphas Kawa, used a court order to place the company on voluntary provisional liquidation without the consent of other shareholders.
Kawa nominated Lunga of Impact Trust and Executors (Pvt) Ltd, who was once appointed the judicial manager of ZEXCOM Foundation, as liquidator of the company.
On July 22, 2014 Lunga started writing letters to the tenants of ZEXCOM Foundation Investment Fund Ltd demanding all rentals to be paid to her company.
ZEXCOM has invested in various sectors of the economy to enhance future earnings of war veterans and their dependants. The investments were in the form of properties and shareholding in various local companies such as Econet, Telecel, Kingdom Bank and Delta. The Chronicle