Tanzania: Hunting Firm to Pay Mantra Sh2.4 Billion As Lawsuit Backfires

Dar es Salaam — Tourist hunting firm, Game Frontiers of Tanzania Limited has been ordered to refund $1,050,000 (about Sh2.4 billion) to a Uranium exploration company, Mantra Tanzania Limited in money in compensation for money allegedly received through invalid agreement.

The commercial division of the High Court has sided with Mantra Tanzania Limited that the hunting firm failed to show it possesses a valid hunting licence when Mantra agreed to pay them $150,000 annually for overlapping their hunting block during minerals exploration.

It was Game Frontiers which brought sued uranium prospecting company in 2017 for not paying them the agreed $150,000 for loss of business that would be caused by mineral exploration activities.

Facts building up to the legal dispute can be traced from September 2007 when Mantra Tanzania Limited secured a licence to prospect for minerals in a track of land allegedly overlapping Mbarang'andu Wildlife Management Area, where Game Frontiers claimed to have been licenced to conduct tourism hunting.

Seeing that there was convergence of interests on the same track of land, Game Frontiers Limited entered into Strategic Alliance Agreement Limited with Mantra Resources Limited which owns Mantra Tanzania Limited, to settle the matter amicably.

It was the term of the agreement that Mantra would pay the Game Frontiers $150,000 per annum in compensation for loss of business.

Following the agreement, Mantra Resources Limited claimed it assigned all its obligations and rights under the agreement to its subsidiary, Mantra Tanzania Limited.

According to court documents, Mantra Tanzania Limited would also be required to notify Game Frontiers of any plan to cease exploration activities in the areas by November of the preceding year.

Game Frontiers claimed in court that Mantra did not conduct exploration on the land from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 as well as July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 but failed to inform them about the cessation within stipulated time.

The company sought payment of $300,000 in compensation for exploration of minerals into its area and for loss of business.

Game Frontiers started hunting activities at the area in 1993.

At the hearing of the lawsuit, Game Frontiers was represented by Mr Hussein Mohamed who was assisted by Mr Benjamin Mtwanga while Mantra Tanzania Limited enjoyed the service of by Mr Audax Vedasto.

Mantra files counter claim

Mantra Tanzania Limited disputed the claim for compensation raised by Game Frontiers as baseless and untenable.

The firm claimed it was not party to the Strategic Alliance Agreement entered between Game Frontiers and Mantra Resources Limited, thus the agreement could not be enforced against them.

It was their contention that the area granted to the tourist hunting firm did not extend to the area covered under the Strategic Alliance Agreement. "The area that belonged to us (Mantra) was situated about 60 kilometres away from the alleged hunting block," said Mantra official.

"The plaintiff is not entitled to any compensation as he never suffered any loss. There is no point in time Mantra Tanzania Limited or Mantra Resources Limited carried out any exploration or mining operation in the alleged area," said Mantra.

Misrepresentation

One of the issues that featured prominently in the case was allegation that Game Frontiers misrepresented its rights under the agreement, causing Mantra to pay them $1.4 million

Lawsuit backfires

Mantra's finance manager Gydon Cyprian Mtega told the court that after emergence of the dispute in the mater, he went through records of Game Frontiers but failed to see any of their hunting licences on record and communicated the matter to their management.

He told the court that decided to stop paying the hunting firm compensation for loss of business unless they see their hunting licence.

The witness further revealed that his company conducted an audit conducted in 2016 and discovered that there was not where Game Frontiers' hunting block converged with their mining prospecting area. "There is no place where the hunting area and the mining area meet," said the witness.

A google map and another maps made from coordinates of the disputed area were tendered and admitted in court as evidence.

In his decision of June 4, 2021, Judge Isaya Arufani said Game Frontiers failed to convince the court it had a valid licence over the disputed area at the time of entering into agreement with Mantra Tanzania Limited.

"Although a plaintiff witness told the court that they were issued with a hunting licence over the area in dispute from 1993, no hunting licence or any other evidence adduced before the court to support the said assertion," he said.

The court has also agreed with Mantra Resources Limited assigned all its legal obligations and beneficial rights contained in the agreement to its subsidiary, Mantra Tanzania Limited, after signing the agreement with Game Frontiers.

In support of its claim of invalidity of the agreement, the Mantra Tanzania Limited relied on the factors that the hunting firm concealed and misrepresented facts relevant to the formation of the agreement when it stated that it had been licenced to hunt over the land in dispute. Early, Mantra Resources Limited claimed that it entered into the Strategic Alliance Agreement with the hunting firm based on the misrepresentation of facts.

"As there is no plaintiff's hunting licence tendered in court, the agreement entered by the plaintiff and Mantra Tanzania Limited is void and enforceable as it was made under misrepresentation and concealment of the facts necessary for the formation of the agreement made by the plaintiff (Game Frontiers)," said the judge.

The court also found that Mbarang'andu Wildlife Management Area where Game Frontiers was licenced to hunt was not converging with the area Mantra was allowed to prospect for uranium.

The court has ordered Game Frontiers to refund $1,050,000 to Mantra Tanzania Limited in compensation for loss of business.

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