Hippo Valley sues Zinwa over $400 000 refund

CHIREDZI-BASED sugarcane miller, Hippo Valley Estates (Pvt) Ltd, has approached the High Court seeking an order compelling the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to refund the excess $398 860, which the sugar firm paid on behalf of other sugarcane growers.

BY CHARLES LAITON

According to court papers, Zinwa has a water supply agreement with Hippo Valley and other sugarcane growers in the Lowveld region, where the water authority is entitled to charge for water consumed by the estate and other growers.

“In or about 2010, the defendant (Zinwa) delivered to plaintiff (Hippo Valley) an invoice for water consumed by sugarcane growers for the sum of $837 601,20. In the bona fide and reasonable belief that the sum was due, plaintiff paid the sum to the defendant,” the estate said.

“The plaintiff then recovered the sum of $438 740,56 from the sugarcane growers, who disputed liability for the balance in the sum of $398 860. There was no cause for the plaintiff to pay the sum to the defendant.

“Defendant has been unjustly enriched at the expense of the plaintiff and the plaintiff has, thereby, been impoverished in the sum of $398 860. In the alternative, plaintiff paid the sum of $837 601 to the defendant in the mistaken, but reasonable belief that it was due from the sugarcane growers and that the growers would reimburse the plaintiff.”

However, Zinwa dismissed the claim, saying it had prescribed and further advised Hippo Valley to claim its money from the sugarcane growers.

“The defendant, herein, pleads in abatement that the plaintiff’s claim has prescribed in light of the fact that the plaintiff’s cause of action arose in 2010 when plaintiff was barred by the court from making deductions on the proceeds from the sugarcane growers. Sales and the proceedings in casu (in this case) were only filed in May 2016, five years after the cause of action arose,” Zinwa said.

“Defendant would aver that whatever payments plaintiff made, were for and on behalf of the sugarcane growers for water supplied by defendant. The plaintiff’s action ought to be directed to the sugarcane growers and not to defendant. The mistake, if it can be proven, is not excusable under the circumstances.”

The matter is still pending before Justice Charles Hungwe.