Uganda’s Court of Appeal has blocked South African moneylender, Vantage Mezzanine Fund, from selling businessman Patrick Bitature’s prime properties in Kampala.
In his ruling on June 27, Justice Christopher Gashirabake said “there is all evidence that there is a real threat of sale/disposal of the property before determination of the main arguments of jurisdiction of this court can be determined.”
He added: “For this reason, I grant the protective order sought.”
The judge further ruled that, “any further form of threat of sale or dealing in the advertised property is hereby stayed until the determination of the application of interim orders of stay.”
Bitature recently rushed to the appellate court after the Commercial Division of the High Court threw out his application in which his companies – Simba Properties Investment Co. Ltd and Simba Telecom Ltd, had sought to stop the advertisement and auctioning of his properties.
Bitature had sought a temporary injunction against Counsel Robert Kirunda, Wasige and bailiff Katerega from selling off their properties in a bid to recover the loan until the final disposal of the pending courts cases.
The affected properties include; Elizabeth apartments in Kololo, Protea Hotel (Skyz’s Hotel) in Naguru, Moyo Close apartments and Kololo gardens in Kampala.
Vantage’s lawyers had argued that the intended advertisement was to cause the sale of the properties owned by Bitature to recover USD32,064,075 (about Shs117b) that Vantage is demanding as being an overdue debt following a loan deal gone bad.
Bitature’s lawyers countered that their suit had a high likelihood of succeeding considering that purported mortgagee (Vantage) was non-existent and yet by the lawyers and bailiff advertising the said properties, have not only occasioned severe damage to their names and business reputation but have also caused or continue to cause irreparable damage to them.
Justice Gashirabake today said Bitature’s “application is not meant to stop or interfere with the ongoing arbitration, which has to continue, but to protect the property of the subject of the arbitration until the arbitration is concluded.”
Gashirabake also wondered why the moneylenders’ lawyers argued that there wasn’t any threat or imminent danger of the said property.
“Why would the advert in the Daily Monitor have been placed in the newspapers? The advert has not been withdrawn. Is any prudent person supposed to ignore the advert? The answer is a resounding NO. would anyone rely on the advert to buy the property. Yes.”
Gashirabake’s ruling means that Vantage cannot go ahead to advertise and sell the properties to recover its outstanding loan against Bitature until the matter is concluded by arbitration.
The protracted legal battled has gripped the nation and dominated public debate.