UK Firm Sues Zimbabwe VP Over Smart Meter Tender Loss

EMS Challenges $50,000 Security Fee in High-Stakes Legal Battle

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe
EMS legal challenge Zimbabwe

Electricity Management Services Limited (EMS), a firm based in the United Kingdom and Wales, has taken Zimbabwe’s Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga to court. The lawsuit stems from EMS’s unsuccessful bid in a tender to supply smart meters to Zimbabwe’s Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC). Adding a layer of complexity to the case, EMS is contesting a hefty US$50,000 security fee required for their appeal to be considered.

EMS’s legal challenge includes several key players in Zimbabwe’s procurement and energy sectors: the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz), ZETDC, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, and Inhemeter Co Limited, the company that ultimately won the bid. The crux of the dispute centers around the tender process for the supply and delivery of prepayment vending meters, a critical component in modernizing Zimbabwe’s electrical grid.

The UK-based company argues that the imposed security payment to contest the bidding outcome is not only unconstitutional but also infringes on their right to administrative justice. Their legal stance seeks to challenge the validity of certain sections of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, arguing that it unfairly impedes their ability to seek judicial review of administrative decisions.

The High Court hearing, presided over by Justice Sylvia Chirawu-Mugomba, initially focused on whether EMS had the legal standing (locus standi) to challenge the constitutionality of Zimbabwean laws as a foreign entity. Justice Chirawu-Mugomba affirmed EMS’s position, setting the stage for a deeper exploration of the legalities surrounding security for costs in legal proceedings involving foreign companies.

EMS’s legal representation, led by advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara, contended that the demand for security costs contradicts existing High Court rules, especially given that Praz is already in possession of EMS funds totaling over US$610,000. The firm’s argument underscores the perceived redundancy and unfairness of requiring an additional US$50,000 security payment.

Justice Chirawu-Mugomba, acknowledging the case’s complexity and significance, ruled that EMS must fulfill the security payment requirement. However, she noted the court’s discretion in exceptional circumstances to modify this demand, suggesting a possible negotiation on the amount. The case has been temporarily stayed, awaiting EMS’s compliance with the security payment. Failure to meet this requirement could lead to a reassessment of the payment amount by the involved parties.

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