KTDA directors’ fate in contempt of court case to be determined in February by Court of Appeal

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KTDA chairman-Peter Kanyago. PHOTO/FILE

By ABDULKARIM SHERMAN

newsdesk@reporter.co.ke

Directors of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) risk punishment for allegedly meddling in the leadership and management of the 8,000-member Kiru Tea Factory in Muranga County.

The Court of Appeal said today that a case in which directors of the Kenya Tea Development Agency have been sued for contempt of court will be determined on February 22, next year.

Directors of a breakaway group of the troubled Kiru Tea Factory in Murang’a and those from KTDA risk facing punishment for orchestrating the removal of the plant’s chairman, Chege Kirundi, against court orders.

The KTDA directors sued for contempt include Stephen Githiga, Eston Gikoreh, Peter Kinyua, Francis Macharia, KTDA managing director-Leriorka Tiampati, KTDA chairman-Peter Kanyago, Philip Ngetich, Joseph Wakamani, Erastus Gakuya, Benson Ngare, Alfred Njagi, Arthur Rimberia and company secretary John Omanga.

Appellate Judges William Ouko, Fatuma Sichale and James Otieno-Odek said the contempt proceedings, which were initiated by Kirundi and his allies who are facing rebellion from a rival camp supporting suspended director Stephen Githiga, will determine which group is lawfully in office following the protracted leadership crisis.

Kenya Tea Development Agency CEO Lerionka Tiampati. PHOTO/COURTESY

Senior Counsel Paul Muite, assisted by lawyer Marete Githinji, asked the bench to impose fines and jail-terms to each of the 14 directors for flouting an injunction issued by the court prohibiting them from holding an Annual General Meeting (AGM) on December 14 last year to approve the giant tea processor’s board changes. However, lawyers Njoroge Regeru and Waweru Gatonye, representing the Githiga group claimed no elections were held to replace the aggrieved directors.

Kirundi, Kiragu, Vice-Chairman John Ngari Kariri and auditor Christopher Mwangi have accused their rivals of trying to paralyse the operations of the firm at the behest of powerful individuals who are seeking to control the tea industry in the region. The Githiga group has insisted on being the legitimate directors in control of the factory’s affairs.

The Court of Appeal had observed that KTDA-HC and KTDA-MS appeared intent on the nomination of Omanga to replace Kimani and the rivalry between the warring parties was likely to cause considerable harm to the farming community. Omanga was reportedly removed on September 11, last year and replaced by Kiragu.

High Court Judge Msagha-Mbogholi had affirmed Githiga’s suspension on April 28, last year, on grounds that he had not exhausted the legal disciplinary machinery provided by law. He was reportedly sacked because of conflict of interest arising from his appointment to head a private large-scale team firm in January last year.

Mr Kirundi and his allies, who are facing rebellion from Mr Githiga’s group, had secured an injunction blocking the KTDA Holdings Ltd and KTDA Management Services Ltd from interfering with the leadership of the factory.

While issuing the orders last year, the judges noted that the Kiru directors were involved in a war of attrition, with each side trying to ensure that its candidate holds sway as the company secretary.

Shareholders opposed Mr Githiga’s stay at the firm, arguing that his position at the factory became invalid after Sasini hired him as group managing director in January last year, adding that he could not sit on boards of two firms that deal in tea.

Mr Githiga was in February ousted following an extraordinary meeting, which the KTDA declared unprocedural.

The High Court in December rejected Mr Githiga’s plea to stop Kiru from axing him and ruled that the disputes be settled in the boardroom, setting the stage for his ejection.

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