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Telecel dragged to court over unpaid rentals

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MOBILE network operator Telecel has been dragged to court for failing to pay rentals for one of its branches in Harare’s Mabelreign suburb with arrears now at US$34 400.

 The landlord, Peter Saopa, has told the High Court that efforts to recover the money have failed, leaving him no option but to approach the courts for a remedy. Saopa is demanding payment including interest and cost of suit.

According to the summons filed early this week, Telecel entered into negotiations with Saopa with the intention of leasing the property from him. Court papers show that on February 1 2010, the parties executed a lease agreement in which Telecel would lease the property as a cellular telecommunications cell site.

Parties agreed that the lease duration would be for 15 years from 1 February 2010 to 31 January 2025.

“The defendant would lease the property as a cellular telecommunications cell site only and would erect a cellular communications tower and mount a cellular antenna and microwave equipment on the property on an agreed location on the property,” part of the summons reads.

 It was agreed that the rental for the property would be US$200 per month, which amount was to be reviewed after the first six months.

Thereafter the rental would be reviewed annually in accordance with the macro-economic conditions.

The parties further agreed that the rentals would be paid six months in advance. It was also agreed that in the event of default by Telecel, Saopa was entitled to cancel the contract and evict the company and demand damages. On 12 February 2014, the parties executed an addendum to the lease agreement in which the parties agreed that the rental would be increased to US$1 075 per month with effect from the 1 February 2014.

“The parties enjoyed a cordial contractual relationship until 2018. On or around June 2018, Telecel unilaterally ceased rental payments due to Saopa without legal justification,” the aggrieved landlord’s lawyers wrote.

However, Telecel remained in occupation and made no effort to remedy the breach of contract. According to Saopa, in numerous email correspondences between him and the mobile network operator, the company acknowledged that it owed him.

The High Court has been told that sometime in August 2021, Telecel made a payment of ZW$54 000 and indicated that the amount was for the period from June 2021 to November 2021.

“This amount cannot be said to cover the rental fees as agreed between the parties in the 2014 addendum even if it were converted to interbank rate nor did it cover the previous owed amounts which remain due and owing,” Saopa’s lawyers said.

Saopa said he sent his last demand as a formal letter through his legal practitioners dated 21 September 2021.

 However, despite these various demands, Telecel has failed to settle the amount. It is his submission that he is legally entitled to the payment of the claimed amount, interest, collection commission calculated in terms of the Law Society rules and the costs of suit as agreed between the parties.

“In addition, the plaintiff is entitled to cancellation of the contract on account of the defendant’s continued and flagrant breach. Wherefore, the plaintiff prays for the payment of the amount of US$34 400 being unpaid rentals for 32 months in terms of a lease agreement executed by the parties,” the summons read. A full hearing on the matter is pending. — STAFF WRITER

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