High Court in Kampala has directed socialite Sheila Nadege, commonly known as Don Zella, to deposit Shillings 20 million as security with the court. This amount is intended to cover potential costs that may be incurred by Speke Hotel, which Don Zella sued over the alleged loss of property and cash from her hotel rooms.
The order was issued by Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana in a ruling sent to the involved parties via email on Friday. In 2020, Don Zella filed a lawsuit against Speke Hotel 1996 Limited, trading as Speke Apartments, seeking to recover US$125,000 following the alleged theft of her belongings from the apartments owned by city businessman Sudhir Ruparelia.
According to the suit, Don Zella claimed that she had rented Apartment numbers 107 and 512 at plot 19 Wampewo Avenue on December 6, 2020. However, during her absence with her family on Christmas Day, December 25, 2020, an unknown individual broke into one of the units and stole her cash, jewelry, mobile phone, camera, laptop, and children’s tablets, all valued at Shillings 456 million.
Don Zella alleged that Speke Apartments had negligently denied her possession of the apartment keys, which compromised her security. She argued that having access to the keys would have mitigated the risk. Additionally, she claimed that Speke Apartments failed to utilize surveillance cameras in the control room to prevent the theft, neglected to station a security guard on the apartment block, and did not require the suspected thief to surrender his passport to the authorities.
Don Zella contended that Speke Apartments tampered with the crime scene before the police and she arrived, hindering the apprehension of the thief. Consequently, she requested the court to compel Speke Apartments to pay her Shillings 456 million in damages for negligence, along with interest and costs of the lawsuit. During the hearing, Speke Apartments filed an application requesting that Don Zella provide security for costs in the case.
They argued that she was likely to lose the case and might not have the financial means to reimburse the hotel for the costs they would incur in defending themselves against what they deemed frivolous accusations. Speke Apartments alleged that Don Zella would be unable to cover the costs of the main suit, given her lack of property or a known source of income in Uganda.
“The respondent was using counterfeit money in different currencies of United States Dollars and Euros in their staged burglary. The applicant contends that the suit filed by the respondent/Don Zella is frivolous, misconceived, and vexatious and it discloses no cause of action”, reads documents.
They further claimed that Don Zella colluded with Shanita Male and the alleged burglar, Jeremy Adome, to stage a burglary. Justice Ssekaana agreed with Speke Apartments, ruling that they had a solid defense and counterclaim against Don Zella. Additionally, he determined that she was unlikely to be able to pay costs if ordered by the court, leading to the directive for her to deposit Shillings 20 million as security.
“In the case before this court, the Applicant/Speke claims that the Respondent/Don Zella has no known source of income and that with the knowledge of her previous frivolous actions, it is only prudent that to have the latter pay security for costs for this matter which will ably be returned to the respondent in the unlikely event of the success of the main suit. This claim has not been refuted by the respondent,” said Ssekaana.
The judge concluded that the nature of the case demonstrated the frivolous and vexatious nature of Don Zella’s claims, as she did not have a contract with the apartments since the room was booked by Shanita Male. He suggested that Don Zella appeared to be colluding with the suspected burglar, and the entire robbery or burglary was stage-managed for wrongful compensation and to tarnish the reputation of the apartments.
The judge noted that Don Zella’s lack of known property, income, or business in Uganda, compounded by her residency in the United States, further justified the need for security for costs. “Since the applicant’s affidavit was not opposed then it is clear that the same is true and should be regarded as such. The respondent has no known property in Uganda or income or business. This is also worsened by the fact that she is domiciled or resident in the United States of America”, said Ssekaana.