Crime & courts

Row over late businessman’s Karoi complex

TSOTSI Complex, one of the oldest commercial structures in Karoi town, formerly owned by the late businessman Brian James Rhodes, now houses at least 70 tenants who are resisting paying rent to a man claiming to be an agent of the new owners.

The said owners have never visited the property in the past 15 years.

Only a handful of the small-scale indigenous businesspeople occupying the premises have been paying monthly rentals to a man called Mr Tavengwa Foya while the majority have vowed not to pay until he produces proof of ownership of the property.

Interestingly, a report by the executor to the estate of the late Mr Rhodes, lists the complex among the properties that are yet to be distributed to the family members.

According to the executor’s report, the property still belongs to the late Mr Rhodes but a local company, whose directorship is questionable, claims to have purchased it.

Mr Rhodes’ widow, Elizabeth Anne, has since left for the United Kingdom after the death of her husband in 2007.

Children of the late businessman are believed to be scattered all over the world.

The yellow dilapidated structure sitting on a hectare at number 370 Bouganvillea Way in Karoi, requires extensive renovations despite accommodating entrepreneurs.

The resistant occupants question the legitimacy of the transfer of the property from BJ Rhodes Private Limited to Simbal Pvt Ltd, a company that Mr Foya claims to be representing.

Simbal claims ownership of the property and claims the property now has a new title deed registered under its name (6892/04).

However, when The Herald checked with the Registrar of Deeds, the new document could not be found.

The Registrar, Ms Nyagura only managed to retrieve the 1985 deed of transfer 4387/1985 registered under BJ Rhodes Pvt Ltd.

The Herald had to proceed with the story after a fruitless two-weeks’ wait.

This comes at a time reports of the scramble for the estate of the late Mr Rhodes have gone viral with a number of local individuals trying to fraudulently grab assets.

Simbal Pvt Ltd was named after its late director, Mr Simbarashe Sakutukwa, who died on 7 June 2010.

Since his death, Mr Foya and other agents have been collecting rent from tenants.

New structures have been erected on the same stand and it is not clear who really owns them. However, the majority of the tenants have now become defiant, refusing to pay rent to Mr Foya of Simbal Pvt Ltd citing ownership issues.

A check with the Companies’ Registry shows that Simbal Pvt Ltd was owned by the late Mr Simbarashe Sakutukwa who died in 2010. A copy of the CR14 form filed at the Companies’ Registry in 2011, a year after the death of Mr Sakutukwa, shows he was a living director. He was listed among the living directors, raising suspicion that the papers could have been cooked up for fraudulent purposes.

The same document shows that the stated two directors, the late Mr Sakutukwa and his daughter Chidochangu, had their identity numbers added on the CR14 forms after Mr Sakutukwa’s death in 2011.

The other directors, according to the document, are Mr Sakutukwa’s widow Getrude and one Gardener Madzongo.

The current CR14 which was later filed in 2018, is also suspicious.

The updated document communicates the death of Mr Sakutukwa but wrongly spells his surname.

For unknown reasons, the surname was now written as “Satukwa” instead of Sakutukwa, sparking fears of fraud.

Mr Foya, who collects rent, visited The Herald after being asked to comment on the case but he could not even state where Simbal offices are, neither did he reveal the names of the directors of the company.

“I just wanted to meet you but I cannot comment on anything. I am forwarding the text to the director who will formulate the response modality. I will update you accordingly once I get the response from the director,” he said. By the time of going to print, Mr Foya had not sent a response to a set of questions asked by The Herald.

Mr Sakutukwa’s estate has since been wound up but nothing much was said of the immovable property in question.

The property was mentioned in a letter to the Master of High Court by the widow who indicated that the family had since lost control of it. To that end, Mrs Getrude Sakutukwa pleaded with the Master of High Court not to include the Karoi property when calculating the Master’s fees.

“The shares of Simbal Pvt Ltd have been valued at $413 522. What constitutes the bulk of this figure is the value of a property owned by the deceased in Karoi.

“The truth of the matter is that this property is registered under the name of the deceased but I have no control over it . . .” reads a letter to the Master of High Court dated 31 October 2012.

She added: “I humbly request that since this final account is based on the Simbal Shares which basically is an empty shell now, you consider waivering payment of the estate duty.

“In 2011, the National Indigenisation and Econonic Empowerment Board (NIEB) through its general manager compliance Z Lunga, wrote to the tenants advising Simbal had no legal right to collect rent from the property formerly owned by BJ Rhodes.

“We however, understand that due to peculiar circumstances of Lorely Investments, Tsotsi Complex under Karoi Properties is being managed by individuals who have no legal right or mandate to do so.

“In our view, such actions are criminal and we will be advising the police to investigate their activities. In the meantime, we encourage that all issues dealing with the aforesaid company be done through Nemic Investments, the intended indigenous partner of Loreley Investments,” reads the letter dated April 11 2011.

However, details of the said Nemic Investments are still sketchy.

Since then, most tenants are now paying rates and water charges directly to council without Simbal’s involvement but they are not paying a cent to Simbal.

They are also paying electricity bills directly to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) and the account is still under BJ Rhodes.

ZETDC and the Karoi Town Council accounts are currently up-to-date as the tenants are religiously paying every month.

A locksmith who occupies Tsotsi Complex, Mr Shadreck Packet, said he moved into the property in 1998. “During that time, Mr Rhodes was still alive and were paid rent through his agent called Mr Patridge Guru.

“Simba Sakutukwa, under unclear circumstances, took over in 2007 and started collecting rent from us. He later died in 2010 and Mr Foya and others started collecting rent,” he said.

“Around 2011, we stopped paying rent to Mr Foya, demanding to see the owner of the property. He simply told us he is an agent but we do not know who the legitimate property owner is.

“Even the Sakutukwa family does not even visit the property. We heard they are now based in the United Kingdom. We doubt Mr Foya is forwarding the money to the owners.

“For now, we are only paying water bills, electricity bills and rates to council but we stopped paying rent to Mr Foya.

“If we are occupying an abandoned property, we better pay rent to the Government,” he said. Another tenant, Mr Alphonse Chidemo, said there was confusion on who really owns the company considering that another man identified as Robert Gana, at one point separately demanded rent from the tenants.

“Another man, claiming to be from Simbal, once demanded rent separately, creating more confusion on who is the legitimate owner or beneficiary of the property.

“That is when I stopped paying rent,” he said. Mr Diamond Gwekwe, who runs a hardware shop at the complex, said those who collected rent were failing to pay the bills at council and ZETDC, prompting the tenants to pay directly.

“Those collecting rent were not paying rates to council. They were not paying electricity for a long time, prompting us to pay directly without their involvement.

“As we speak our accounts are up to date but I am currently not paying anything to Mr Foya of Simbal,” he said.

Members of the Karoi Bulk Goods Transporters, that used to pay about US$250 each to Mr Foya for parking their trucks at an open space on the stand, now feel cheated.

They have since written to council seeking to pay rent to council directly for the open space, saying the caretakers were not the rightful landlords. “The undersigned Karoi local transporters have recently found out that the above mentioned area is an open space in your area of jurisdiction. We also recently discovered that we have been leasing this space from a wrong landlord, hence we have terminated this informal arrangement.

“We hereby apply for authority to lease from you for our business operations. We also intend to be considered as potential buyers of this space as and when the opportunity arises,” reads a letter to Karoi Town Council dated January 10 this year.

-HERALD

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