Directors of a breakaway group of the troubled Kiru Tea Factory in Murang’a and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) risk punishment for orchestrating the removal of the plant’s chairman, Chege Kirundi, against court orders.
This was after three judges of the Court of Appeal dismissed an application by the rival group.
The group sought to terminate contempt proceedings for allegedly disobeying court orders issued in December last year stopping the removal or replacement of Mr Kirundi.
Judges Asike-Makhandia, Kathurima M’Inoti and Fatuma Sichale ruled that the contempt proceedings will determine which group of directors is lawfully in office.
The 8,000-member factory has been embroiled in a dispute since the suspension of the director, Stephen Maina Githiga. The fight forced the KTDA to intervene. Mr Kirundi and his allies, who are facing rebellion from Mr Githiga’s group, had secured an injunction blocking the Kenya Tea Development Agency Holdings Ltd (KTDA-HL) and Kenya Tea Development Agency Management Services Ltd (KTDA-MS) 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.
Mr Kirundi and Kiru vice-chairman John Ngari Kariri have accused their rivals of trying to paralyse operations of the firm at the behest of powerful individuals who are seeking to control the tea industry. Shareholders opposed Mr Githiga’s stay at the firm, arguing that his position in the factory became invalid after he was hired by Sasini 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 extra ordinary meeting which was declared unprocedural by the KTDA.
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.
The Registrar of Companies has also sided with shareholders of the tea factory in the removal of Kennedy Omanga, KTDA company secretary, arguing that his stay was illegal and in breach of an earlier Court of Appeal ruling.
Mr Omanga had been serving as company secretary of Kiru before his ouster and the appointment of an independent consultant.