THE Supreme Court yesterday gave the nod for 29 Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) vehicles to be placed under the hammer after it dismissed the airline’s appeal to stop the auction sale. CHARLES LAITON
The vehicles were attached last year by the Deputy Sheriff to offset former AirZim marketing manager Stephen Nhuta’s retrenchment package amounting to $141 790,82.
Air Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited had appealed against High Court judge Justice Joseph Martin Mafusire’s ruling in which he dismissed the airline’s urgent application which sought to stop the auctioning of the vehicles.
But judge of appeal Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, in concurrence with Justices Paddington Garwe and Bharat Patel, upheld Justice Mafusire’s judgment, effectively giving the greenlight for the sale of the vehicles.
AirZim, through its lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri, had argued that the vehicles could not be attached to offset any debts because they belonged to its subsidiary Air Zimbabwe Holdings which was protected under the State Liability Act.
In ruling on this aspect, Justice Ziyambi said: “Clearly, then, the learned judge’s finding that Air Zimbabwe Holdings is not the successor company referred to in Section 9A of the Repeal Act is unassailable. It follows, therefore, that the property of Air Zimbabwe Holdings is not protected from execution by the statutory provision.”
Commenting on the ownership of the property attached, Justice Ziyambi said AirZim’s argument that the property belonged to it, and not Air Zimbabwe Holdings, could not be supported by mere production of registration books.
“It is trite that the registration books are not proof of ownership. In any event, the appellants have, still open to them, the option of pursuing the interpleader proceedings in which the issue of ownership can properly be ventilated and determined,” Justice Ziyambi ruled.
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The vehicles in question were attached in October 2012 when Nhuta registered his arbitrary award as a court order and sought its execution.
According to the notice of attachment, the vehicles, among others, comprised eight Mazda 3s and four Mercedes-Benzes belonging to the top management, a Toyota Hilux Vigo, three Mazda B2500s, two Mazda BT50 trucks, a Mazda 626 and a Mazda B1800.
However, in April last year, when the Deputy Sheriff attached the vehicles and notified AirZim of the impending auction, the latter approached the High Court on an urgent basis seeking to stop the sale.
Justice Mafusire, however, ruled that Air Zimbabwe’s application, which was brought under a certificate of urgency, could not be heard on an urgent basis, a decision that was challenged by the airliner on appeal.
Nhuta was represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu.