19 December 2011

Zimbabwe: Parking Deal Still On, Easihold Insists

EASIHOLD of South Africa yesterday insisted its partnership with the City of Harare was still on and accused council of changing rules governing their EasiPark parking joint venture in a bid to terminate it.

Council passed a resolution to end the deal last week, saying it had run into several problems.

But EasiHold insists the deal to jointly operate parking lots, parkades and on-street parking meters in the city is still on. The firm has sought arbitration on the matter.

"In our opinion, the city changed the rules of the joint venture agreement, which we are unhappy with," said EasiHold chief executive officer Mr Michael Clarke.

"We do not want to terminate this agreement. We want the deal to continue."

Mr Clarke said they had declared a dispute and arbitration will "amicably resolve the matter". "We have declared a dispute," he said.

"The city has 30 days to respond and see whether we can settle the dispute amicably."

Mr Clarke declined to disclose the areas of dispute.

He said he had not heard "any notification of the cancellation of the deal" from the city.

On the sharing of profits, Mr Clarke said there were thousands of American dollars in the EasiPark Harare account that were ready for sharing.

He said it was the city that stalled the sharing of profits by demanding that the dividend be paid after the completion of an audit.

"There are several thousands of dollars in the bank which belong to EasiPark Harare," said Mr Clarke.

"Sixty percent would go to the city with 40 percent going to EasiHold."

Harare mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda said the deal could be salvaged.

He urged councillors to follow procedures if they wanted the deal terminated.

"It is not over completely, there are some issues that can be salvaged," Mr Masunda said.

"At the time the transaction was entered into, there were indications that a lot of good would come out of it. But this is just like a marriage. The councillors want the deal terminated, but they should follow the provisions of the joint venture agreement and the shareholders' agreement."

Mr Masunda said an arbitrator will be appointed to come up with a solution.

Some Harare councillors are accusing Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi of conniving with Mr Clarke to declare a dispute and seek arbitration. Dr Mahachi said the matter was now subjudice. "I will not comment. The matter is now subjudice. I do not want anyone to say that I disturbed their agenda," he said.

Investigations have revealed that there is mistrust between the councillors and Dr Mahachi, whom they accuse of "vested interests" in the parking deal.

During a full council meeting last week, Clr Peter Marange hinted that a senior official had advised Mr Clarke to seek arbitration following the business committee resolution to terminate the deal.

Mr Clarke had written to Mr Masunda, advising him that he wanted the matter to be taken for arbitration.

But he denied having been influenced by Dr Mahachi.

"We declared the deadlock ourselves," Mr Clarke said.

"We felt we have a joint venture agreement that should be followed. We are happy to conclude the shareholder's agreement."

Council and EasiHold signed a joint venture agreement which was supposed to elapse once a shareholders' agreement was signed.

The parties failed to agree, hence the shareholders' agreement failed to take effect.

According to the joint venture agreement, the deal is terminable "by either part giving 90 days notice".

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