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Banker demands $21m from land developer

High Court of Zimbabwe

A LONG-RUNNING dispute between a retired banker and a leading property development firm came into the limelight yesterday, with High Court papers showing the company may end up paying about $21 million.

Papers filed by the banker, Austen Ratsauka claimed that he was contracted by Alpha International Developers about three years ago to provide consultancy services for US$4 500 per month.

Alpha has been undertaking some of the country’s key housing developing projects in urban centres, including Harare, Bulawayo and Beitbridge.

The retired banker claimed that he carried out the work over three months, but was never paid.

He is now demanding US$13 500, or about $7 million — the equivalent in Zimbabwe dollars.

The amount rises to about $21 million if 200% interest demanded by Ratsauka is factored in.

But Alpha claimed that the retired banker was not entitled to the payment he is demanding.

“Sometime (in) 2021, the plaintiff, at the specific instance and request of the defendant, rendered consultancy services to the defendant,” Ratsauka said in High Court papers filed on July 12.

He said Alpha tasked him to recruit a property sales administrator, formulate new processes and procedures in stand sales administration and train staff.

“The plaintiff’s claim against the defendant is for payment in the sum of US$13 500 or its equivalent at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe interbank rate prevailing on the date of payment being outstanding consultancy fees for consultancy services duly rendered to the defendant by the plaintiff,” the High Court papers said.

“Interest on the said sum of US$13 500 at the prescribed rate calculated from the date of summons to the date of payment in full,” the papers said.

But Alpha said it never signed a deal with Ratsauka.

“The plaintiff (Ratsauka) was never engaged by the defendant in the manner alleged,” said Alpha’s legal counsel, Musengi & Sigauke.

“To put issues into perspective, the plaintiff is a nephew to the manager of the defendant company, which carries on a land development business. Due to their close relationship, the defendant’s manager and the plaintiff agreed verbally that the plaintiff would use his contacts in the financial sector to source funding for any of the defendant’s various land development projects. It was further agreed that in the event of plaintiff sourcing and securing a line of finance for the defendant company, and only when an agreement to that effect would have been signed by the funder sourced by the plaintiff, the parties would then negotiate a fair compensation due to the plaintiff for the work he would have done depending on the amount of credit received by the defendant from the funder,” the legal counsel noted.

“The plaintiff was never engaged by the defendant company for monthly remuneration of US$4 500 as alleged or at all. The plaintiff was, however, paid periodic allowances to keep him going as he was sourcing the funding for the defendant company.

“It is, therefore, denied that defendant has failed to pay the alleged US$13 500 despite undertaking to do so and plaintiff is put to strict proof of these averments.

“The plaintiff’s claim is patently frivolous and there was no way in which a consultancy agreement of the nature described by plaintiff would be verbal. The plaintiff has not been put out of pocket at all and if anything, it is the defendant who has been put out of pocket by being made to defend such a frivolous law suit,” the papers said.

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