Client pays for 1 200 bags cement, Lafarge wants to deliver only 17

Mhlanga wants an order compelling Lafarge to release his 60 tonnes of cement within 48 hours of service, or alternatively refund his money.

A HARARE man who paid in full for 1,200 bags of cement in October 2018 and then did not claim them for two years, during which time the currency changed, is suing Lafarge Cement after the company said his money was now worth just 17 bags.

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Morgan Mhlanga, of Harare, paid US$13,136.43 into the cement maker’s Stanbic bank account for 60 tonnes of PC15 cement, or 1,200 bags of cement in 50kg packaging.

Before Lafarge could deliver his cement, Mhlanga told the Harare High Court that his wife wrote to the company on January 23, 2019, instructing them not to release the cement to their building contractors because his building project had been put on hold.

When he finally claimed his cement on August 13, 2020, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed company told him it owed him Z$15,136, enough to buy 17 bags of cement.

In a High Court filing this week, Mhlanga’s lawyers said: “The plaintiff could not accept nor collect the cement as this was not the quantity of cement that he had purchased from Lafarge and he immediately registered his disquiet.

“The plaintiff has been protesting against this daylight robbery and has tried to engage Lafarge in discussions to reach an amicable settlement but the company has refused, failed and neglected to deliver the purchased product.”

Mhlanga wants an order compelling Lafarge to release his 60 tonnes of cement within 48 hours of service, or alternatively refund his money.

Lafarge is yet to respond.

Dozens of disputes from the dollarisation era have spilled into court after individuals and companies failed to settle U.S. dollar denominated transactions in the currency after they too lost out during the currency switch.

In February 2018, Zimbabwe abandoned a discredited 1:1 dollar peg for its dollar-surrogate bond notes and electronic dollars, converting all balances into a lower-value transitional currency called the RTGS dollar in an effort to ease chronic cash shortages.

After the move, the Reserve Bank was selling the dollar to banks at a rate of one U.S. dollar to 2.5 RTGS before the currency crashed. On Tuesday this week, the new exchange rate was one U.S. dollar for 97 Zimbabwe dollars.

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