The report named Local Government and Urban Development Minister, Ignatius Chombo, and controversial businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa, as among top government officials that had illegally acquired vast pieces of land in Harare.
The court appearance comes after the Harare City Council made a report to the police to arrest Chiyangwa and Chombo over the land theft allegations. However, the police have been reportedly said to be scared of making any arrests because the two politicians hail from the same home area as President Robert Mugabe.
Chiyangwa, a business tycoon, has gone to the extent of suing both council and The Standard newspaper for a whopping US$900 million saying he had suffered losses to his companies and damages to his reputation because of the council report. He said the report was accusing him to be a thief.
The mayor and the councilors appeared before Harare magistrate, Olivia Mariga who postponed the case to Wednesday.
The lawyer representing the councilors, Aleck Muchadehama, made an application for refusal of remand. The lawyer argued the mayor and the councillors were facing spruced up charges made up by Chiyangwa and the police officers to divert attention from the businessman’s involvement in the land scandal.
Since the explosive report was made public through the media three weeks ago, Chiyangwa had pressured police to harass the councilors as well as the journalists who wrote about the matter.
Council intends to take back the illegally acquired vast tracts of land.
“Such harassment will only harden our stance and we are not going back,” said a defiant councillor, outside the court. “We are going to recover the land, which was stolen by these people while conniving with senior council employees. They can do whatever they can but the report has been adopted and will be used against them.”
“They must understand that the situation has changed in Zimbabwe – there will be no more corrupt practices in council especially the massive looting of land. Even if they put us in jail, the recommendations of the adopted report will remain intact and will be implemented,” said the councilor.
While Chiyangwa, a former Rhodesian police officer who was also arrested and charged with spying for the South African government six years ago, is busy taking the route of instigating the arrest of councilors and journalists, Chombo has been inciting Zanu (PF) residents to demonstrate against the councilors.
He recently handpicked a team to probe councilors for “illegally” chasing away Zanu (PF) supporters from their homes in the townships. It is believed that he wants to suspend the councilors to stop them from further investigating the land scam.