Botswana-based businessman fails in bid to claim R6m in damages from Venter trailers

28 October 2021 - 06:00
By Ernest Mabuza
A businessman based in Botswana has lost in his long-running battle against Venter Manufacturing.
Image: 123RF/SKYCINEMA A businessman based in Botswana has lost in his long-running battle against Venter Manufacturing.

A businessman based in Botswana has lost his legal battle against trailer maker Venter Manufacturing in the high court in Johannesburg.

Hedley Abnett says he has lost everything in his fight with Venter and does not think he will be able to pay Venter’s legal costs, as ordered by the court in its judgment passed last week.

Abnett had asked the court to award his company, Supa Bike, damages of R6.1m for loss of business which he claimed was a direct result of Venter's alleged breach of contract.

Venter and Supa Bike concluded a dealer agreement in April 2018 whereby Supa Bike was granted the right to buy and resell Venter trailers in Botswana.

On August 23, 2019, Abnett instructed his attorneys to draft an addendum to the agreement stating, among others, that Venter Manufacturing would not supply its products to third parties within Botswana. Venter refused to sign that addendum.

After that refusal, Supa Bike gave Venter 30 days’ notice cancelling the distributorship agreement for the alleged breach of contract.

After the cancellation of the contract, Supa Bike launched the application against Venter seeking an order that Supa Bike be awarded damages for the loss of earnings.

The application first came before the court in December last year and was postponed to give Supa Bike an opportunity to supplement its founding affidavit to deal with whether the  dealer agreement contained a tacit term that grants Supa Bike exclusive distribution rights.

In his supplementary affidavit Abnett said a number of terms in the agreement supported his argument that there was an exclusive distributor contract.

In its opposition, Venter denied it had any intention to, or that it did, enter into an exclusive distributorship agreement with Supa Bike.

“Where exclusivity is afforded to a distributor, a letter to this effect forms part of the dealer agreement as an addendum thereto,” Venter Manufacturing MD Detlef Hamann said.

The matter was heard again last Tuesday and judgment was passed two days later, dismissing the application with costs.

The court said Supa Bike had failed to establish a cause of action against Venter.

“The applicant [Supa Bike] has failed to show that the dealer agreement contains a tacit which grants the applicant exclusive distributorship rights in Botswana,” judge Keoagile Matojane said.

After judgment, Abnett, who represented his company in court, said he would not appeal.