THE corruption dragnet is closing in on land barons, including two high-ranking State bureaucrats, who illegally parcelled out stands to unsuspecting desperate homeseekers, raking in huge sums of money in Caledonia, east of Harare.
This comes after Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, established a management committee which will investigate all the land barons in the area and report them to the police.
Government has also frozen all development projects on the 3000-hectare land pending the rationalisation of the area.
Caledonia has since been handed over to City of Harare from Goromonzi Rural District Council which has no capacity to manage it.
A report by one, Percy Toriro, which nailed two district administrators and a top Zanu(PF) official among the culprits, and was presented to Chombo last week, recommended the immediate arrest of the land barons and everyone implicated in the scam.
The report says Caledonia residents have collectively lost US$57 million to land barons, potentially rising to US$98 million.
Caledonia and Eastview development consortium chairman, Nelson Mandizvidza, who was the first to be arrested, reportedly pocketed about US$3 million by creating perpetual housing cooperatives through which he milked home seekers.
Ironically, a former Goromonzi district administrator who facilitated his acquisition of vast tracts of land is also named as a Mandizvidza in the Toriro report although it could not be immediately established if they are related.
The report also nailed a Mabvuku-Tafara district administrator whose name was not given, a local headman identified as Musonza and Zanu(PF) Harare provincial deputy chairman, Robert Kahanana.
There are over 200 cooperatives operating in the area.
The land was mostly illegally divided into stands numbering 23 000 in over 20 phases, making it even bigger than towns like Rusape, Bindura and Marondera.
Only three out of the over 20 phases have approved site plans while the rest are haphazard, Toriro’s report says.
Land earmarked for establishment of schools and recreational facilities was also ravaged by barons who demarcated stands thereon.
There are fears of a major humanitarian health disaster as there are no proper ablution facilities and no running water, which leaves residents with no choice but to rely on unprotected shallow wells, raising fears of cross contamination.
Toriro said the barons took advantage of their proximity to high-ranking politicians to sell State land, thereby criminally prejudicing both the State and residents.
Some of the stands were sold to members of the uniformed forces.
Chombo immediately appointed Toriro as chairman of the new investigating team which is expected to file police reports against the barons and work on a turnaround strategy inside one month.
He said the two district administrators (DAs) implicated in the scandal will be fired from work.
City of Harare, to which Caledonia has since been incorporated, will second three people to the committee.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army will give two members each to the committee, which will also include chief executive officer for Goromonzi Rural District Council, two officials from the Ministry of Local Government officials and a yet to be identified banker.
“I give this committee two weeks to put the administrative machinery in order and a further four weeks to do the rest of what is needed,” said Chombo.
“Any official from government who committed an offence will be dealt with immediately. Those two DAs will have to be recalled. The town planners who were doing work nicodemously, selling land will be arrested. We also want the police to go after the land barons immediately,” he said.
Chombo also ordered a stop to all projects on the land until further notice and immediately dispatched George Mlilo, permanent secretary in his ministry and other senior officials to Caledonia, who informed the people of the new developments a fortnight ago.
The committee started work two weeks ago.
In an interview with the Financial Gazette recently, City of Harare chamber secretary, Josephine Ncube, said they were ready to take over Caledonia.
“We have that capacity. We are already managing a big city and we have the necessary structures for that,” she said.