New twist to CSC, Boustead Beef saga

Anxious Masuka

FIVE Cold Storage Company (CSC) employees have approached the High Court seeking nullification of the Livestock Joint Farming Concession agreement between Boustead Beef and the government.

Taurai Mutsi, Atuka Chikora, Sipho Majole, Letasi Mbewe and Phumulo Lubinda, filed their court application on August 22, 2022 at the Bulawayo High Court challenging the agreement.

They are represented by Messrs Mutuso, Taruvinga and Mhiribidi.

They cited Boustead Beef and the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture, as first and second respondents respectively.

In their draft order, the workers said: “The purported contract entered on 22 January 2019 by the first respondent (Boustead Beef) and Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement be and is hereby declared null and void and no legal effect.

“All actions taken by respondents on the basis of the null and void contract referred to above be and are hereby declared void as initio. Respondents pay costs of suit on attorney to client scale only if they oppose.”

Government signed an agreement for a joint venture lease with the UK-based investor, Boustead Beef.

Under the proposed 25-year deal, Boustead would assume control of CSC’s ranches and meat processing facilities across the country as well as managing distribution centres and residential properties in Harare, Gweru and Mutare.

However, in his founding affidavit, Mutsi, who is the first applicant, said the Lands ministry which signed the deal was not a legal entity and it has no legal personality.

“In other words, it cannot perform legal transactions. The action of the late Ringson J Chitsiko of signing an agreement on behalf of the ministry was an exercise in futility, as purported contract is a nullity. Put differently, the purported is between first respondent and no one. It is nothing and nothing can depend on it,” he said.

“The contract seeks to bind a third party, that is, CSC. The latter is not a party to the contract. Therefore, the provisions contained in the said purported contract that make reference to CSC, its assets or business operations or administration are null and void and of no effect.

“Assuming that I am wrong, which I am not, that the contract is void ab initio (invalid from the outset) on account of CSC not being a party to the contract or that the Ministry has no legal personality. I am of the firm view that the contract is null and void on the basis that it was not executed by the directors of CSC but by the shareholder, namely second respondent,” Mutsi said.

Vonani Majoko of Majoko and Majoko Legal Practitioners was removed as CSC corporate rescue practitioner following a court application made by Boustead on 15 August this year. 

In the application, Boustead did not cite creditors or workers despite the fact that they are affected in terms of the Insolvency Act section 138.

It only cited Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka and the Deputy Master of the High Court. The Court application was not opposed.

CSC has debts exceeding US$42,5 million.

In his opposing affidavit, acting permanent secretary in the Agriculture ministry, Peter Mudzamiri, said the application was before the wrong forum.

He also said the employees who were challenging the agreement were no longer part of CSC after they were retrenched.

“Wherefore, I pray that this matter be dismissed with costs before parties engage the merits of the matter,” he submitted.

On September 22, 2022 the applicants filed another court application asking the court to set aside and expunge, from the record, an opposing affidavit filed by Mudzamiri, arguing it was not filed together with Notice of Opposition.

The matter is yet to be heard.

On August 22, 2022, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga “officially re-opened” CSC which ceased operations 22 years ago, but investigations by ZimLive revealed that the meat processor was still closed.

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