South African National Parks (SANParks) could not be expected to continue squandering its limited resources to fund privately-run restaurants in three of the Kruger National Park’s rest camps, which refused to pay for anything, a high court judge has said.
Judge Peter Mabuse dismissed an application by Ringgold Investments, which ran the restaurants at the Letaba, Olifants and Satara camps, to force SANParks to immediately restore their electricity supply and ruled that SANParks was entitled to take immediate control of the restaurants and to evict Ringgold.
He also granted a punitive costs order against Ringgold, despite the company’s application to set aside an arbitration award in favour of SANParks was still pending before the High Court in Pretoria.
Giving reasons for his ruling, Judge Mabuse said its was clear that Ringgold owed SANParks millions of rands and had not made any payments since October last year, causing SANParks to legally cancel their public-private partnership agreements to run the three restaurants.
SANParks terminated the electricity supply to the restaurants in September. Ringgold claimed the termination was illegal but Judge Mabuse ruled SANParks had acted in terms of consensual arbitration, a judicial process.
SANParks contended Ringgold’s sole intention was to remain in occupation of the restaurants and carry on business for as long as possible, earning profits from the tourists visiting Kruger National Park, but paying nothing to SANParks.
The judge said SANParks was in a difficult position due to the exclusive nature of the restaurant facilities, which were used by many tourists. SANParks could not replace the operator as long as Ringgold refused to leave and by cutting the electricity, tourists were deprived of facilities.
He said Ringgold had taken advantage of SANParks’s tourist conscious approach and sought to delay the resolution of the disputes so that they could carry on trading without compensating SANParks.