HARARE - Zimbabwean businessman Frank Buyanga has thumbed his nose at South African authorities, including the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the police, after wresting control of his R4 million Rolls Royce Ghost.
This comes after a protracted four-year battle between the Pretoria authorities and the maverick businessman, and in which the posh car was controversially auctioned in March by Tom Moyane's organisation.
When the Auto Haus Car Hire (Auto Haus)-owned Rolls Royce was sold off in South Africa (SA) – along other high-end vehicles owned by alleged mafia boss Radovan Krejcir and ex-strip tease joint-operator Lolly Jackson – Buyanga's lawyers accused SARS of wrongfully impounding and auctioning the car.
In his court application, Engelbertus Grove not only accused SARS of disregarding his client's ownership proof and pleas for the reason why the Rolls Royce was forfeited in 2014, but queried the South African revenue agency’s locus standi in seizing the transit car.
APPARITIONAL... The controversial Rolls Royce Ghost owned by businessman Frank Buyanga and parked at his Cell Funeral Assurance offices along new hearses in Harare's Herbert Chitepo Street.
“Despite its invitation… the applicant (Auto Haus) did not receive correspondence (approval or disapproval) of its submissions of 14 November 2014. Had there been correspondence, the applicant does not have same in its possession..,” he said in his founding affidavit opposing the sale of the vehicle.
“Apart from running into a brick wall, the respondent (SARS) did not provide the applicant with reasons, alternatively sufficient reasons why it refuses to accept the evidence presented… on ownership in the vehicle,” Grove said, adding a slew of documents from Deca Motors International Limited (Deca) and Ian Frank Properties’ agency role proved “prima facie ownership, as no evidence to the contrary was produced”.
“Despite the allegations of a so-called police investigation since 2010, no evidence was presented to counteract the evidence… regarding the applicant's claim of ownership of the vehicle.”
While the swanky ride was originally taken by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in 2010 on suspicion that it had been stolen by a syndicate at the Durban harbour, the car was eventually forfeited and auctioned off by Sechaba Trust (Sechaba) earlier this year – although Buyanga has inexplicably repossessed the car.
But Buyanga and Auto Haus insisted that they had duly presented the documents required by the police at the time, and which included the bill of entry, import permit and proof of purchase from Deca.
In particular, the parties also said they had tendered an electronic SARS release note – known as the SAD500 form – as proof of the vehicle’s clearance for importation and its British registration papers and Rolls Royce certificate of newness.
But despite this overwhelming evidence and documentation, and London authorities’ denial that the Rolls Royce was reported stolen, SAPS and its revenue counterpart held out to their positions – thus raising questions about the South African judicial system’s impartiality as well.
“The applicant is awaiting reasons for the refusal of the latest representations made to the respondent. All or any discrepancies that were contained in documentation – were to the knowledge of the applicant – explained to the respondent. To the applicant, it seems as if the respondent unilaterally ignored the complete evidence to date,” Grove had said in his application and attacked SARS for its “irrational and unreasonable” behaviour.
On account of a letter that said "until such time as your interest in the vehicle has been clarified, the commissioner was under no obligation to allow you to inspect the vehicle", Buyanga’s camp railed at the revenue collector for its bias and mala fide behaviour in dealing with this matter.
“…no one in the world (has) claimed ownership in the vehicle. The whole picture portrayed… that there was an investigation and that the car may have been stolen from the Durban harbour, is clearly without merit,” the lawyers said, adding “the only available evidence and claim to ownership was that of the applicant”, and their client had even attempted “to clear queries” from the Pretoria agencies.
Having paid a full purchase price for the vehicle, Auto Haus had failed to earn any income on the asset for five years and “the respondent had effectively stolen income from the applicant with its refusal to accept the best – and only evidence and claim – to ownership in the vehicle”, they added.
“To invite the applicant on the one hand… and proceed with the sale of the vehicle is not reasonable either, and neither does it reflect fair process. The applicant only obtained knowledge of the sale on 06 March 2015, thereby realising that the respondent (had)… closed the door on the matter…,” Grove said.
“The procedural fairness by the respondent is also disputed. The respondent unilaterally decided on the presentation of specified documents as so-called proof of ownership. In so deciding, the applicant ignored the proof that was presented as well as the fact that this represents the only claim. The approach is at best, arbitrary,” the hard-hitting affidavit said.
Furthermore, Buyanga’s corner vowed that it would “dispute the respondent's jurisdiction to deal with the vehicle as a further point to nullify” SARS’s actions and as it “was never imported into SA”, but destined for Zimbabwe.
“By retaining the vehicle in SA… further deprives the Zimbabwean authorities of import taxes… on the actual import of the vehicle into that country,” it said.
Despite the ordeal, Buyanga was even prepared for a compromise based on Auto Haus paying any applicable duties, penalties or charges connected to the detention of the coveted marquee and any other conditions that SARS may have wanted.
And at the height of the bruising battle, SAPS officers even claimed they could not access Buyanga as he was under armed guard.
But as the saga came to an interesting halt, the 34 year-old businessman has been seen being driven in the expensive sedan on Harare’s streets for over a month now.
While Buyanga has “mysteriously managed to lay his hands on the auctioned car” and has been driving it in Zimbabwe for about two months now, the development is likely to embarrass many in SA, especially given that it was disposed barely 120 days ago.