Zebediela Citrus terminates dealings with property group

Zebediela Citrus is on the verge of collapse as the fight to save it is unfolding in court. (Photo: News24)
Zebediela Citrus is on the verge of collapse as the fight to save it is unfolding in court. (Photo: News24)

Polokwane- Zebediela Citrus (Pty) Ltd on Friday terminated trade dealings with Henley Property after issues relating to fraudulent packaging and poor management emerged in court.

The termination of the contract was endorsed by the Polokwane high court to end a ten-year partnership due to alleged mismanagement of the multimillion citrus estate.

The company accused the property group of defrauding key clients by packaging citrus that were not certified for foreign market into the same packaging as certified ones.

The unpopular move saw the company suspended from exporting citrus during 2016 pending investigations, and three Henley Group managers are facing fraud charges at the Mokopane Magistrate’s court.

The high court heard that the fraudulent packaging prompted landowners to register their discomfort and call to end trade dealings.

Henley Group used Fruitone, its sister company to export citrus to the European union and other international markets.

Beneficiaries said since the company started to operate in 2003 it has never declared profit.

On Thursday the court heard that Henley group deceived European Union markets when it sent produce that was not authorised for international consumers.

As a result the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries slapped them with a suspension order barring the company to export its produce.

Zebediela Citrus, which was owned by the then Lebowa government, was restored to Bjwatladi Communal Property Association in 2003 as part of government’s land restitution programme.

As part of mandate, the beneficiaries were forced to enter into strategic partnership with Henley Group as a government requirement.

With the termination of the contract, beneficiaries believe that they will start to reap rewards from their ancestral land.

Zebediela is now wholly owned by Bjwatladi community near Polokwane.

The management of the company is facing a criminal case of fraud at the Mokopane Magistrate’s court.

But the terms of termination of contract stipulate that criminal case pending in Mokopane must be withdrawn.

Zebediela, one of the country's biggest citrus producers, won the land in 2003.

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