Witvlei Gets a Lifeline

Witvlei Meat that has recently been in the doldrums after several court judgments went against their wishes yesterday received a timely lifeline in the Supreme Court.

The meat company won an appeal they lodged in the Supreme Court against a judgment delivered in the Windhoek Court by Judge Dave Smuts ordering them to move from their current premises. Justices of the Supreme Court – Albert Strydom, Sylvester Mainga and Fred Chomba – upheld Witvlei’s appeal and dismissed the earlier application by Agribank granted by Judge Smuts. In the original application Agribank asked for an order compelling Witvlei Meat to vacate the abattoir they have been renting from Agribank and an order authorising the deputy sheriff to effect an eviction plus costs.

In a reversal of fortunes for Witvlei Meat the Supreme Court set aside the judgement of the High Court and replaced it with an order upholding the appeal with costs. In the Supreme Court judgment, Justice Strydom, who wrote the appeal judgment, said where the High Court found that Witvlei’s failure to exercise its option to buy the abattoir lapsed by the time the second lease agreement was signed between Witvlei and Agribank, he could not agree as the second agreement was precisely the same as the first agreement, save for an increase in rent.

In the second agreement it was stated, “I trust that the interpretation of the renewal is in order in that ownership will pass to Witvlei Meat any time during the renewal period once the purchase price of N$15 million is paid to Agribank.” According to Justice Strydom, Agribank did not challenge the statement and prepared and submitted for signature the second renewal agreement on precisely the same terms. He said if Agribank did not agree with the interpretation of renewal contract it would have said so and excluded the option clause. He said that in his opinion it was not necessary for the parties to expressly include the option clause in the renewal agreement as contended by Agribank as the words “all the terms and conditions of the existing deed of lease shall continue and operate” already included the option clause. According to Justice Strydom, Agribank and the High Court suffered under a misconception that the bank must secure the approval of the line minister.

He said that nowhere in the Act that established the bank are the powers to sell, buy and let property made subject to the approval of the Ministers of Agriculture and Finance. Justice Strydom further said that since the property could not become the possession of Witvlei before the lease agreement came to an end as the lease agreements state that Agribank would remain in possession of the property until transfer was given, Witvlei, if it would have to vacate the premises for any period of time, would have to again make renovations and anew apply for EU approval.

He said Agribank was willing to offer Witvlei an extension of the lease contract, thereby benefitting from rental fees as long as it would complete the transfer. He said that any interruption of Witvlei’s business, as an abattoir with overseas contracts, could spell disaster for the business. Justice Strydom said that he found that the option to buy the abattoir contained all the essentials required for a sale of the property and the valid exercise of the option constituted the agreement between the two parties. By Roland Routh

Source : New Era