Tourism ministry sued over US$30 million 2013 debt

HARARE – Tourism minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu has been dragged to court accused of failure to pay US$30 million owed to a Harare based architectural firm, House of Vengesayi (Pvt) Ltd (Vengesayi Architects) which provided complex architectural services to his ministry back in 2013.

The matter has been hanging within the courts since 2016 but could now reach a finality after it has been rekindled by the company.

High Court judge Rodgers Manyangadze has directed the firm to provide evidence proving it was owed money by the ministry.

This comes after Ndlovu defended the lawsuit arguing that there was no application before the court.

The minister cited sections of the High Court rules he argued rendered the application invalid.

But Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara, who was representing the firm, submitted that the minister’s plea was fatally defective and should be dismissed, adding it was nothing more than just bare denial.

Manyangadze then ruled that the firm should be heard because the ministry could not just run away from its obligation since the fact that services were rendered and nothing was paid was not being contested.

“The plaintiff’s submissions are in sync with the applicable law,” ruled the judge.

“The defendant has not made submissions to the contrary.

“In light of this, the plaintiff’s prayer that the defendant’s defective plea be struck out must be granted.

“The granting of that prayer leaves the defendant technically in default. He is in default by reason of failure to file a valid plea.

“As already indicated, the claims in casu relate to the drawing up of complex architectural designs and their costing.

“The costing runs into millions of United States dollars. There is certainly need for evidence to substantiate the claims.

“Thus, guided by r r56 (1), the proper course of action is to allow the plaintiff to adduce evidence to substantiate its claims.

“This course of action can only be avoided if the defendant takes the necessary remedial action to extricate itself from the default position it has placed itself in.”

The firm approached the court in 2016 arguing that it was owed US$30 million for the architectural services rendered to the Tourism ministry.

Court papers show that the ministry engaged the firm in 2011 to provide architectural designs.

The designs were for massive multipurpose tourist facilities that were supposed to be utilised during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference in Victoria Falls.

The architectural firm said it designed and did working drawings for a multi-purpose warehouse, presidential villas, bed and breakfast apartments, Carnivore Restaurant and night club, 120,000 square-metre shopping mall, a 350-bed three-star hotel and charged $30,286,747, 86.

However, the ministry breached the contract, refusing to pay the amount that was owed which prompted the firm to approach the court with summons demanding payment.

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