ZINARA loses car dispute with its former IT Manager at the High Court
The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (ZINARA) has failed to repossess a vehicle it issued to its former IT Manager Gift Kanotangudza after High Court judge Justice Webster Chinamora threw out the application.
The background of the dispute was that, in May 2010, ZINARA (applicant) and Kanotangudza (respondent) entered into a contract of employment. The respondent was employed as the IT Manager of the applicant.
In the contract, the respondent was entitled to conditions of service, 4 x 4 model with engine capacity up to 3.0 litres with fuel for private mileage of 200 litres per month. He was also entitled to purchase his conditions of service vehicle at a residual value of 10% of the cost price at the end of four years.
The court heard that, on 16 September 2016, applicant availed the vehicle to the respondent for use during the course of his employment. Then on 9 July 2019, the respondent resigned from his employment.
However, when he resigned, Kanotangudza had not reached 4 years in employment, and the vehicle had not been offered to him by the applicant. The respondent did not surrender the vehicle when he resigned.
The applicant asserted that it was the owner of the vehicle, and that respondent was holding on to it without its consent or just cause from the time of resignation.
On 6 November 2019, ZINARA (through its lawyers) demanded the return of the vehicle, but the respondent failed to do so. The authority decided to approach the court.
In response, Kanotangudza denied that the vehicle belonged to ZINARA. Instead, he averred that by the time he resigned he had exercised his right to buy the vehicle.
He argued that clause 6(b) of the contract of employment gave him the right to purchase the vehicle. Further to this, he denied that the vehicle had to reach 4 years and that it had to be offered to him first.
Kanotangudza stated that he bought his first conditions of service vehicle in May 2014. He asserted that he was entitled to the conditions of service every 4 years thereafter.
He submitted that he joined ZINARA on 5 May 2015 and resigned in July 2019, meaning that he had worked for the applicant for a continuous period of 9 years.
He added that as he had worked from 2010 to 2019, he had completed 2 four year periods in the employment of the applicant,
Accordingly, Justice Chinamora ruled in favour of Kanotangudza.
“It is important, in the circumstances of this case, to determine if the contract indeed gives the respondent a right to retain the vehicle or whether this derives from the doctrine of estoppel or both Let me begin with what, perhaps, may appear to be elementary.
“My understanding of the ordinary meaning of clause 6(b) is that:
“The respondent (as IT Manager) shall be entitled to the vehicle described in the contract as part of his conditions of service,” read part of the ruling.