By Shaun Gillham
AN ONGOING fast food fight between two popular Nelson Mandela Bay restaurants is threatening to leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths in a Port Elizabeth High Court case that could be equated with two fish fighting over a small pond.
At the centre of the dispute between Letap CC, which trades as This is Eat, and Oceans 11, is a portion of a 702m² piece of Transnet-owned land in the Port Elizabeth harbour where the companies operate next door to, and in direct competition with, each other.
Oceans 11 has been operating from the premises since 2005, while This is Eat was established on the same parcel of land about seven months ago.
Oceans 11 is embroiled in a three-way wrangle involving its owner Mohamed Jameel Hassim, Letap’s owner Imraan Patel and Transnet, which has been accused of turning a blind eye to its own land leasing policies.
Despite last year’s High Court order that Oceans 11 must vacate the premises by January 31 this year, a judgment appeal and subsequent litigation to address contempt of court have temporarily maintained the legal status quo, with the feud between the respective owners becoming increasingly personal.
Weekend Post walked in on the food fight this week, when visiting Oceans 11, which had no electricity at the time. The power was off, according to management, because it had been switched off by their neighbours who, they allege, have full control of the electrical box on the premises, as it has been fenced off.
The Patels, in court documents, were also last year accused of emptying dustbins on the Oceans 11 premises.
According to the initial judgment, handed down in December last year, Letap leased the Transnet land, including the portion under dispute, from 2001.
It was stated that subleasing was prohibited.
In the judgment, it was stated that Patel came to “an arrangement” with Mohamed Rashid Hassim to the effect that the latter and his family could occupy the premises for his own use, paying the rental and deposits and consumption charges.
The judgment further explains that Letap had building plans around renovations and alterations of the site approved by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, but did not advise Hassim on this matter.
The competing business, This is Eat, was later established on the site, and in November last year Patel launched an urgent application to have Oceans 11 evicted from the site based on the Transnet lease clause which prohibits subletting.
When approached for comment, Oceans 11 management, which includes family of the owners, refused to comment.
Weekend Post was however able to establish from an employee who asked not to be named that, while the family simply wished to trade in harmony with their neighbours, issues that bothered them included Letap establishing a competing business in an “underhanded manner”, and certain safety concerns and building violations.
“One of us will eventually have to go,” said a family member, who asked not to be identified.
This is Eat’s Zune Patel, brother of Imraan Patel, told Weekend Post that Oceans 11 had “no right” to trade next door. He refused to comment further.
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday June 23 2012.
Article source: http://theweekendpost.com/2012/06/26/fishy-feud/