SMM saga sucks in Ramaphosa

SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been dragged into the on-going fight between government and the Friends of SMM Holdings (Pvt) Ltd (FOSMM) over the hostile takeover of the asbestos mine in 2005.

Government placed SMM Holdings under judicial management through the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act in 2005.

The Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act was acceded to by the late former President Robert Mugabe to reportedly protect SMM, formerly owned by Zimbabwean businessman Mutumwa Mawere, against legal action and attachment of the company’s property by local and foreign debtors.

SMM administrator Arafas Gwaradzimba then approached South African, Zambian and United Kingdom courts in a bid to recoup SMM monies allegedly siphoned into the neighbouring countries by SMM directors, in particular Mawere.

The matter spilled into South African courts and FOSMM dragged Ramaphosa to the High Court last year challenging the extra-territorial application of the law in South African courts.

In response, Ramaphosa allegedly refused to sign his answering affidavit to the application, preferring that the South Africa principal State law advisor Godfrey Mphaphuli, who is a legal advisor in his office, acts on his behalf on the matter.

In his answering affidavit on February 1 this year, Ramaphosa confirmed authorising Mphaphuli to depose the answering affidavit in September last year.

In his letter to Ramaphosa dated February 7, 2022, Tawanda Mupasiri, the FOSSM public policy director, said: “I have taken time to familiarise myself with all South Africa litigations and inescapable conclusion is that absent the complicity of the South African judiciary … The reason I am writing this letter is that the stance you have taken in relation to the FOSMM application when properly construed has the effect of undermining the rule of law in Zimbabwe by fortifying the position that a law like the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Companies Act can be recognised and enforced as law, at all.”

Mupasiri has also dragged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the Zimbabwean High Court challenging government’s appointment of Gwaradzimba as SMM Holdings administrator.

“You may not be aware that my application under section 167(2(d) and section 167(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe is a quest to make President Mnangagwa accountable for his refusal and wilful failure to act following my letter of November 9, 2021 bringing to his attention the serious and scandalous allegations made against him by his confidante and lawyer, Mr (Edwin) Manikai.”

“Notwithstanding the damning allegations, that President Mnangagwa was the key driver of the project to divest and deprive a South Africa citizen of Zimbabwean heritage, Mawere, of his property in South Africa using false information, Mnangagwa has engaged Mr Manikai’s law firm, DMH Attorneys, as his legal advisers.

“It is worth highlighting that Mr Manikai has opposed my application although I do not seek any relief against, but included him in the matter solely to allow to assist the court with evidence of his state of knowledge of how the idea to use public power to undermine the rule of law was conceived and prosecuted with impunity, not only in Zimbabwe, but in South Africa, Zambia and the United Kingdom.”

Mupasiri challenged Ramaphosa to address whether the reconstruction and enforcement of the Reconstruction Laws in South Africa was consistent with the promise entrenched in its Constitution.

In October last year, FOSMM authorised Janice Jody Greaver to take legal action against Ramaphosa compelling him to rectify the breach of the South African Constitution, the Cross Border Insolvency Act, Sadc Protocol and Treaty and international law for allowing Gwaradzimba to represent SMM in South African litigation.

FOSMM trustees argue that Gwaradzimba had failed to obtain the leave of the court, in recognising and enforcing the law that offends public policy.

The organisation also dragged Ramaphosa to the High Court in Johannesburg over his appointment of Mphaphuli to respond to its application.

Mupasiri’s letter comes shortly after South African businessman, Cleopas Sanangura, petitioned the courts seeking reprieve over adverse rulings made against SMM in the South African legal jurisdiction.Newsday.

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