Land Scandal Opens A Can Of Worms

A senior MDC official confirmed that a number of local councils under the party’s control had confirmed that therel had been massive looting by Zanu (PF) officials immediately after the party lost the March 2008 elections.

“People were selling properties to each other for amounts that are as good as they were getting the properties for free. We already have a case in Harare where Chombo paid only $2 200 for a property that is worthy more than $2 million. We have similar cases in a number of cases from across the country, we are still verifying them through our structures,” said the official.

Since the Harare land dispute came into the public domain, a number of local authorities have also come up with reports of related looting and misappropriation of council property by Zanu (PF) supporters.

In Marondera, the council led by Farai Nyandoro, has unearthed a scam where Chombo connived with former mayor Ralph Chimanikire to allocate council property to Zanu (PF) supporters.  In most cases, according to Nyandoro, the officials paid ridiculous amounts for the properties.

They went on to recruit some 130 Zanu (PF) supporters into council employment. This emerged during a human resources audit recently carried out by the council.

In confirming the development, Nyandoro said they had since gone to the courts to stop Chombo from issuing directives which were mostly against the Urban Councils Act.

“In some cases, he used clauses that have since been scrapped from the Urban Councils Act. He has tried to plant confusion in council by mobilising Zanu (PF) supporters, but this has not worked because we have managed to counter their manoeuvres,” said Nyandoro.

Harare lawyer Alec Muchadehama confirmed that he had filed a case against Chombo, Chimanikire and other Zanu (PF) apologists who were disturbing the operations of the council.

In the Mashonaland Central provincial capital of Bindura, senior Zanu (PF) officials had also sold each other council properties for paltry amounts. Mashonaland Central governor and former Bindura mayor Martin Dinha bought a house for less than US$48.

“Dinha and other Zanu (PF) councillors were involved in massive looting and illegal auctioning of council property in 2008,” said Bindura mayor, Daniso Wakatama.

Dinha could not be reached for comment as his mobile was not available. Chombo also ignored calls to his mobile. Chombo owns high value properties at almost every major town in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile Zimbabwean police on Friday summoned four journalists from The Standard to appear before the Harare Magistrate Courts to testify as State witnesses in the trial of Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and eight councilors who are being charged of criminally defaming business tycoon, Chiyangwa.

Police have subpoenaed Editor-in-Chief Vincent Kahiya, The Standard editor Nevanji Madanhire together with the co-authors Jeniffer Dube and Feluna Nleya of the story that exposed the land scandal that had been exposed by the Harare City Council’s special committee on land.

The journalists quoted a special land investigations report on Chiyangwa’s properties around Harare.

The report unearthed a land scandal that involved Chombo and Chiyangwa as among top government officials that had illegally acquired vast pieces of land in Harare.

The trial of Masunda and the eight councilors has been set down for May 6. They were all remanded out of custody after being granted a US$20 bail when they appeared before Harare Magistrate Olivia Mariga this week.

Mariga had earlier dismissed an application for refusal of remand arguing that there was a reasonable suspicion that an offence was committed.

Incensed by the contents of the report, Chiyangwa went on to sue 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.

Chief law officer Chris Mutangadura said the State was ready to go for trial with some of the people who are named in the land deal scandal as witnesses.

Mutangadura said Harare City Council town clerk Tendai Mahachi, the director of urban planning Psychology Chiwanga and finance director Cosmos Zvikaramba are some of the witnesses that would be testifying in court.

“We are ready to go for trial and some of the witnesses are going to be the journalists who wrote the story about Chiyangwa’s land deal,” said Mutangadura.

Surprisingly Chiwangwa and Zvikaramba were last week reported to the police by acting mayor Charity Bango for facilitating Chiyangwa’s illegal land deals.

Police spokesperson Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed receiving the report and they were carrying out investigations but said no arrests have been made so far.