Mliswa’s Saltlakes, Bak lock horns over tobacco

Temba Mliswa

Temba Mliswa

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
The High Court has begun hearing the case in which a company owned by Mr Temba Mliswa (pictured here) — Saltlakes Holdings — is being sued for $94 272 by Bak Storage (Pvt) Ltd over unpaid storage fees for bales of tobacco that were stored at the company’s warehouse. However, Bak Storage yesterday reduced its claim to less than $40 000 when the hearing began before Justice Amy Tsanga.

The judge was forced to adjourn the hearing to today to allow Saltlakes to bring a witness to testify on the company’s counter-claim. Saltlakes, which responded to Bak Storage lawsuit with a $2 million counter-claim in respect of its bales of tobacco that were destroyed through water leakage while in storage, had requested for adjournment.

In the counter-claim, Saltlakes argued that some of the tobacco was stolen while in the hands of Bak Storage. According to the main summons, between October 31 2008 and June 28 2009, Bak Storage offered storage services for Saltlakes. Bales of tobacco in excess of 26 000 were taken to the warehouses for storage.

Bak Storage also provided many other services including “sorting of tobacco bales, sewing of some of the bales, handling of tobacco bales and handling of bags”. In terms of the companies’ agreement, Bak Storage presented invoices to Saltlakes from time to time but nothing was paid. The agreement compelled Saltlakes to pay for each invoice upon presentation, it is claimed.

Despite demand, Bak Storage argued Saltlakes did not pay the money, prompting the storage firm to issue the summons. Saltlakes responded to the main application through a counter-application in which it is claiming $2 186 783 plus interest from Bak Storage. Saltlakes argued that the $94 272 being claimed by Bak Storage was not justified considering that the agreement was entered into during the Zimbabwe dollar era.

Saltlakes argues that sometime in November 2008 to June 28 2009, its tobacco bales were damaged and stolen owing to Bak Storage’s negligence. Saltlakes had purchased tobacco from various auction floors including Tobacco Sales Floor, Burley Marketing Zimbabwe and Zitac in hard currency (US dollars).

In November 2008, it is claimed that 14 bales of tobacco worth $3 987 belonging to Saltlakes were damaged due to roof leakages while in one of the warehouses at Bak 2. It is also contended that on December 1 the same year, 193 bales of tobacco that were stored at HCF warehouse were damaged after a water tap was left running in the warehouse.

On December 5 2008, 1 500 bales of tobacco valued at $300 000 were damaged by water which flooded the warehouse, it is claimed. Advocate Thabani Mpofu is appearing for Saltlakes and is being instructed by Ms Farirai Mashini of Chitewe Law Practice while Adv Thembinkosi Magwaliba instructed by Winterton law firm is acting for Bak Storage.

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