by TZN Correspondent
THE High Court has ordered former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Gideon Gono, to pay a Harare car dealership, Oasis Motors, the $1,3 million he owes for cars that he bought for his personal use and for his various business on credit.
Gono, who took vehicles worth about $1 750 000, but made partial payment leaving him with a debt of $1,3 million, has been arguing that he cannot honour a US dollar contract made during the last days of the Zimbabwe Dollar era as it was illegal under the law.
Gono also tried to argue that since he bought the vehicles in early 2009, the debt had been extinguished by the law Prescription Act which law nullifies some debts after three years.
He also tried to dispute the name of the company that he owed, hiding behind the fact that it had used its trading name.
However High Court Judge Justice Amy Tsanga ruled that Gono should pay the outstanding amount, describing his arguments as “merely an attempt to clutch at straws”.
“…it is ordered that Plaintiff’s claim for Provisional Sentence in the sum of US $1, 1319,000.00 be and is hereby granted, together with interest on the principal amount and reducing balances at the rate of 5% per annum.” Justice Tsanga ruled on August 26.
Gono—who at the material time was ironically the governor of the RBZ at the time the transaction was consummated—argued that the deal with Oasis charging for goods in foreign currency was still illegal.
“I am advised that the acknowledgement of debt relied upon by the applicant is not valid at law,” Gono said in his affidavit.
“… in that it is illegal and unenforceable because at the time of its signature, that is January 31 2009, neither of the parties had authority to transact in United States dollars, it having been illegal to do so without the authorisation of the Exchange Control authority of Zimbabwe.
“If the transaction is found to be tainted with illegality, it will be necessary to consider the relevant facts surrounding its conclusion as well as the respective degrees of turpitude to the parties in order to determine the extent of its illegality and its enforceability.
“I am further advised that it is the settled position at law that where the court is faced with an agreement that is tainted by illegality, the Honourable Court may allow the loss to lie where it falls…”
Gono also tried to argue that the debt should not be paid because the three-year period permitted in terms of the Prescription Act had lapsed.
“Further, I am advised that plaintiff’s claim, being founded upon the said acknowledgement of debt attached to the summons, is prescribed in terms of Section 15 (d) of the Prescription Act in that the sum said to be due has not been claimed for more than three years since the date it became due, that is, the 31st of January 2010,” he said.
However Justice Tsanga crushed out all Gono’s arguments, dismissing them as desperate attempts to avoid meeting his legal obligations.
“A man in debt is caught in a net and will regrettably clutch at anything to extricate himself. It is neither here nor there that the payments came from his various companies. In his own hand in the acknowledgement of debt, the defendant did mention that his chicken business would generate the income from which he envisaged making payment.
“Furthermore, as pointed out by (Oasis Motors Lawyer) Ms Chitewe, the various correspondence on file in fact show that the defendant (Gono) regarded Lunar Chickens as his address of service. Additionally, as equally highlighted, at no point did 6 HH 713-15 HC 732/15 6 the defendant ever deny making payment or indeed owing the debt.
“Evidence is equally on file that since 2009 the defendant has times without number acknowledged owing the debt in question. Emails were provided acknowledging the debt and are replete with promises to pay. The actual payments made clearly interrupted prescription. Plaintiff’s claim for provisional sentence thus succeeds with costs.”
Gono’s business world is crumbling as he is being pursued by various creditors.