High Court dismisses application to evict ex-Vic Falls top employee

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Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese has dismissed with costs the Victoria Falls Municipality’s application for an order to evict former housing director Lot Syatimbula from a council house following his dismissal from work.

BY SILAS NKALA

The council, represented by Thulani Nkala, filed an application for REI Vindicatio (a legal action by which the plaintiff demands that the defendant returns a thing that belongs to the plaintiff) against Syatimbula, who is still occupying house number 484 Jacaranda Drive, Victoria Falls, which belongs to council.

In his ruling, Justice Makonese said in his view, the background of the matter shows that after the respondent’s dismissal from employment, there was an attempt to evict him from the property in question.

“It is not in dispute that legal proceedings were instituted in the magistrates’ court. It is admitted by the applicant that these proceedings were withdrawn to allow the parties to draw up a deed of settlement. It is logical that a deed of settlement could only be drawn up after parties had agreed to settle the dispute out of court,” Justice Makonese said.

“Respondent contends that there was an agreement that he would not vacate the property pending settlement of outstanding issues. Once it is accepted that there was discussion between the applicant and respondent regarding a settlement of the matter regarding his occupancy of the property, the court cannot simply ignore the fact that there was this compromise agreement between the parties. The applicant should be bound by such a compromise agreement and cannot unilaterally resile from such agreement.”

He added: “The applicant does not deny that the proceedings in the magistrates’ court were withdrawn to allow the parties to enter into a deed of settlement.

“The respondent is clearly entitled to remain in the property by virtue of the compromise agreement. In the result, I am not inclined to grant the relief sought on the vindicatio. I would accordingly dismiss the application with costs.”

In his founding affidavit, town clerk Ronnie Dube had submitted that the council owns the house which Syatimbula still occupied.

Syatimbula was employed as the director of housing and community services on September 1, 2010 and was fired on March 31, 2017. He occupied the council property by virtue of his employment, Dube submitted.

He submitted that Syatimbula was using the property at the expense and prejudice of council since the local authority had been remitting money towards water and rates from November 2017 to April 2019. The town clerk said the balance for the water bill was $1 135, 88 and $1 422,82 for rates.

He said Syatimbula has been making part payments towards electricity, with $178,35 due.

“Applicants continue to suffer financially as they have to pay rentals for its employees, yet they have a property that is specifically meant to be occupied by applicant’s employees. Therefore, the applicant is claiming holding over damages of $775 per month from November 2017 up to the date of vacating the premises,” Dube submitted, adding that the respondent refused and failed to vacate the property to the prejudice of the applicant.