19 February 2013

Namibia: Engen Embroiled in Legal Feud

Windhoek — A legal tussle over the temporary closure of the Engen Presidents Crossing service station is heading to the High Court because petrol pumps have been shut to the motoring public.

The legal fight is between Engen Namibia and the shareholders in the company that owns the service station, Prowealth Commercial Solutions (Pty) Ltd, trading as Engen Presidents Crossing in Sam Nujoma Drive, Klein Windhoek.

Engen Namibia took the stance that Prowealth Commercial Solutions is illegally occupying the site that belongs to Engen Namibia and instructed Prowealth Commercial Solutions to vacate the premises by midnight on November 30, 2012.

The service station's four filling pump islands have been out of commission since the start of the festive season last year, which is also the busiest time of the year, causing a great deal of confusion. The pumps have been prominently bound with red and white striped tape, with a sign that reads "No Fuel Sorry".

Engen Namibia has also stopped the supply of products to the convenience store, as well as the in-house bakery. An irate Hendrik Kruger, one of the five shareholders of Prowealth Commercial Solutions says Engen wants to unlawfully evict them in a manner that is "unlawful".

He told New Era last week that he lodged a formal complaint on January 23, 2013 with the Minister of Mines and Energy Isak Katali for an urgent investigation.

In addition, the matter has been reported to the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Association of Service Station Owners in an effort to defend and salvage Presidents Crossing's integrity, reputation and assets.

Engen was also informed by Prowealth Commercial Solutions that it is in the public interest, as well as future investors and all dealers that the facts are disclosed fully.

In a letter of reply Engen's MD Nangula Hamunyela says: "Your threats to release a public report amounts to nothing other than an attempt to blackmail us."

"Clearly Engen are not acting in the best interest of the Engen brand, as they have refused to provide reasons for their decisions, or what they intend to do with the assets of the business, and are unreasonably not granting us an extension of time or fuel supply until the matter has been properly resolved by both parties," Kruger fumed.

"We have it in writing that certain former and top brass Engen employees have a vested interest in this site, which is why we feel they are using strong arm tactics to throw us out onto the street lock, stock and barrel, and in doing so render us bankrupt," Kruger continued.

"We do not know what to tell our staff whilst Engen holds us hostage, and already we have had to retrench 32 of our valued employees.

"We will defend this matter to the end, and are not going to be brow beaten by Engen who in my opinion are abusing their power in this regard," continued Kruger, adding that Presidents Crossing has not committed any breach of any terms or conditions of the Act and or the agreements with Engen as envisaged in the Petroleum Products and Energy Act.

Presidents Crossing has been in partnership with Engen Namibia and built up the business from scratch over a period of five years, during which time it was awarded Engen Dealer for 2009/2010 African and Regional Winner Southern Africa.

And while negotiations seem to have reached a deadlock between Engen, Presidents Crossing and Prowealth Commercial Solutions, the pumps remain closed and the convenience store is running short on supplies.

Once the pride of Engen's filling stations aptly named Presidents Crossing, which pumped hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel a month, it has now been reduced to a littered haunt for loiterers. Meanwhile, Hamunyela released a statement on behalf of Engen Namibia this week saying that they are aware of the disrupted service at Presidents Crossing, and regret any inconvenience to its customers.

The statement said the business on the site is currently in a legal dispute, which necessitates the suspension of fuel supplies to the site, and Engen has instructed its attorneys to institute High Court proceedings against the current occupants.

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