Legal and Parliamentary Affiars

Harare business partners in a wrangle over land worth nearly US$20 million

Scales of justice

By Anyway Yotamu

Harare businessman Mr George Katsimberis has taken his  Zimbabwean business partner based in  Ukraine Mr Kenneth Sharpe to High Court over 21 hectares land wrangle. Kenneth Sharpe is being sued over US$18 million by his business partner, who claims he has lost millions of United States dollars in three land development joint ventures, this publication has learnt.

According to applications seen by this publication filed at the High Court in Harare in May and July this year respectively, Katsimberis claims that Sharpe and his employees fraudulently made misrepresentations to Harare City Council officials regarding land developments and projects that he had done, Katsimeberis said in the High court documents seen by this publication.

According to the documents, the City of Harare demolishing a  house that Mr. Katsimberis had built at Pokugara Estates located in Borrowdale West in Harare and the cancellation of the survey diagrams for the show house worthy $300 000 United States Dollars.

In his High court documents seen by this publication, prominent Harare lawyer and politician Advocate  Tendai Biti who’s representing Katsimberis claiming damages of US$17 875 000  from Sharpe’s alleged fraudulent tendencies, US$300 000 for the demolished house and ZW$5 million which is close to US$60 000 for the pain and suffering as well as the setting aside of the cancellation of the three joint ventures agreements by Kenneth Sharpe.

Katsimberis and Sharpe on the 15th of June 2016  signed a shareholder agreement for a 50/50 percent, resulting in the formation of Pokugara Ecofriendly Estates, Borrowdale Ecofriendly Estates, and Gunhill Ecofriendly Estates on the 8th of December 2016.

Sharp  is also being accused of trying to wriggle out of the contractual binding after claiming that the company that signed the contract was Pokugara Estate (Pvt) Ltd instead of Pokugara Properties (Pvt) Ltd, after a misrepresentation.

“Furthermore, given the extent of the extensive land dealings between the plaintiffs and the fifth defendant Pokugara Properties (Pvt) Ltd any attempt to deny that Pokugara Properties (Pvt) Ltd was not party to the joint venture agreement would be to allow a fraud to be committed by Sharpe, the fifth defendant as well as its officials Micheal John Van Blerk, Mandla Marlone Ndebele and Simbarashe Kadye,” reads the court application.

“Under the circumstances, they must lift the corporate veil and recognise that Pokugara Properties (Pvt) Limited is a party to the agreement to avoid a fraud being committed.” reads court application.

Last month Katsimberis filed an interdict application to stop the sale of Pokugara Properties until the court has resolved the court cases, according to the court applications seen by this publication,  Katsimberis had so far invested over US$4 million into the project. Sharpe made misrepresentations to council officials with the motive to cancel agreements between the two and their companies after making it appear as if Katsimberis had failed to honour his side of the agreement signed.

The land agreements involved residential stands and construction of flats and clusters houses, among other developments. Katsimberis paid initial payments of US$300 000 for Borrowdale Ecofriendly Estates, US$750 000 for Gunhill Ecofriendly Estates and US$883 728.48 for Pokugara Estates.However, the total cost of Pokugara developments, including drawing of plans, servicing of the land, fees were US$2,4 million , with some  fees  also paid to the City of Harare in addition to, survey fees, design fees as well as property endowment fees amounting to over US$80 000.

The procedure agreed for the Pokugara venture was that Katsimberis would pay to Pokugara Properties (Pvt) Limited and they would in turn make the necessary payments to City of Harare.According to Katsimberis, Sharpe and his employees influenced the Harare City Council to demolish the show house after claiming that he had not followed proper procedure.

“The City of Harare wrongfully came to the conclusion that the show house had been constructed without an approved plan, yet a valid plan was there which was in the possession of Katsimberis and which plan was known to Sharpe and his employees,” reads court documents. 

“The demolition order was unlawful and invalid at law in that it was issued without a court order and in any event, it was issued without the Katsimberis right to be heard.” Katsimberis said he also discovered in December 2018 that Sharpe and Pokugara Property limited managing director Micheal John van Blerk had “fraudulently” cancelled the survey diagrams for Pokugara. They allegedly wrote to the Surveyor General Office asking for the cancellation of the diagrams saying they were lost. The diagrams were, however, available, according to Katsimberis court applications.

Compliance had been completed on December 27, 2017, for 21 cluster stands leading to the issuing of the final Surveyor-General’s approved framed diagrams (plan).

“The Compliance Certificate for stand 19828 held by Pokugara Properties Limited was collected by Sharpe’s project manager Mandla Ndebele without notification to myself,” said Katsimberis.

“On January 11 2018 i  received a letter from Ken Sharpe’s lawyers claiming that the Pokugara Joint Venture Agreement was null and void as were unincorporated companies in entering into the Joint Venture Agreement. His argument was vexatious in view of the subsequent addendums, which clearly identified the incorporated nominee companies. 

“Kenneth Sharpe failed to comply with the mandatory statutory building requirements before building works could commence. He did not forward the tittle deeds to the joint venture lawyers.”

Katsimberis said in March 2018 Sharpe also tried to set aside the joint ventures and enter into a new agreement that had different conditions. And after Katsimberis re-fused, Sharpe, through his lawyers on April 16, 2018, then wrote a letter to Katsimberis cancelling the joint venture agreements accusing him of breaching terms of the agreement. Katsimberis says Sharpe also cancelled an agreement to build 600 flats for the Gunhill Ecofriendly Estates.  

A payment of US$150 000 to Sharpe or a nominee had been done as per contract and a further US$600 000 to facilitate the title deed for the property and the transfer to Katsimberis or his nominee had been made. Katsimberis last week filed an interdict application to stop the sale of Pokugara Properties until the court has cleared the court cases.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende