US$226 000 debt chokes ex-VP Joice Mujuru

Joice Mujuru
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FORMER Vice-President Joice Mujuru and her company, Ruzirun Investments, are swimming in a US$226 000 debt incurred in 2015 and efforts to evade paying the debt have hit a brickwall at the Supreme Court.

Mujuru and her company have been owing the US$226 000 to a local couple, Sabrina and Tony Sarpo, since 2015.

The Sarpo couple owns Peppy Motors.

In the latest development, the Supreme Court ordered Mujuru to pay the debt following a successful appeal against a High Court judgment which confirmed a provisional order that she had satisfied the judgment debt by making payments in RTGS dollars.

The couple, through its lawyers Tapson Dzvetero, argued that parties entered into a consent order denominated in United States dollars, which at the time was legal tender.

They argued that payment was supposed to be at the prevailing interbank rate.

In their appeal, the Sarpos submitted that the court a quo (lower court) erred at law and grossly misdirected itself in finding that the deed of settlement entered into by the parties on May 20, 2019 and consent order granted on May 20, 2018 fell within the ambit of the provisions of Statutory Instrument (SI) 33 of 2019, notwithstanding the deed of settlement and consent order having been entered and granted respectively after the effective date of SI 33 of 2019.

Judges of appeal Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, Felistus Chatukuta and Hlekani Mwayera concurred saying the argument by Mujuru that the deed of settlement and the consent order were merely based on the agreement of sale executed in 2014 and lacked merit.

“The court a quo, therefore, erred when it held that the order by consent did not create any new liabilities, but merely pronounced on the existing liabilities of the respondents.

“The respondents were, therefore, required to discharge their indebtedness by converting the United States dollar judgment to RTGS dollars at the prevailing interbank rate.

“Payment made by the respondents at the one-to-one rate, therefore, did not discharge their indebtedness to the appellants. It merely constituted part payment, with the balance remaining due and payable. We, therefore, find that this appeal has merit and ought to succeed,” they ruled.

The court then ordered that the appeal be allowed with costs.

The High Court judgment was set aside and Mujuru and her company were slapped with costs.

The Sarpos, who were in the business of selling agricultural farming equipment, sold machinery to Mujuru in terms of an agreement of sale concluded on July 25, 2014.

Mujuru acted as surety. Her company then defaulted in making payments, prompting the court action.

At the pre-trial conference, the parties agreed to settle the matter and entered into a deed of settlement on May 20, 2019.

An order by consent denominated in United States dollars was then issued on the same date as the deed of settlement for the payment of US$226 000.

Mujuru then made the first payment on July 5, 2019 through a bank transfer of RTGS$76 000.

After four days, the appellants wrote a letter, through their lawyers arguing that the judgment debt had to be paid at the interbank rate.

Mujuru objected arguing that the obligation to pay the amount had arisen before the promulgation of SI 33 of 2019.

She also argued that payment was, therefore, supposed to be at the parity rate of 1:1. However, the Sarpos ordered the Sheriff to execute the judgment.

On September 18, 2019, the Sheriff attached Mujuru’s combine harvester. On October 16, 2019, Mujuru and her company made a payment of $140 000 directly into the Sheriff’s account.

The Sarpos again wrote to her stating that there was still an outstanding balance of RTGS$7 423 413,30.

But Mujuru argued that payment of $470 282,50 covered the judgment debt in full. On February 11, 2020, the Sheriff attached Mujuru’s three tractors.

Mujuru then approached the High Court seeking a stay of execution of the judgment in HC 2954/18.

She sought as a final order a declarator that the total amount paid had extinguished her indebtedness and demanded the release of the property attached by the Sheriff.

The application was duly granted, prompting the Sarpos to appeal to the Supreme Court.