When Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo condemned corruption last week, laughter echoed across the country.
It is easy to understand why. With his vast property wealth, laid bare in a messy divorce case in 2011, Chombo has become something of a monument to President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to deal with top level graft.
Corruption costs money, because someone always has to pick up the cost of the arbitrage opportunity that arises. Usually, it is the public that pays. In the City of Harare, for instance, documents dating back a decade show just how Chombo has cost ratepayers in land deals.
In 2010, a committee of Harare city councillors was set up to investigate councils land deals. It reported how Chombo had used his influence to acquire prime pieces of land in Harare.
Take for instance, the case of Stand 61 in Helensvale, a prime property area in the affluent northern verges of Harare. In the 1990s, the council had abandoned a plan to allocate the land for residential purposes. Residents of the area had successfully fought against the land being allocated for residential use. A council resolution was then made to keep the piece of land as a natural reserve area. It would not be sold to anyone.
Six different applicants had their eyes on the piece of land, among them churches and private buyers. They applied to the city council for the land. They were told the land was not for residential purposes, according to a council resolution.
Unbeknown to them, Chombo also had an eye on the property. Between 2004 and November 1, 2006, the six applicants were all turned down; the land was not for residential use, they were repeatedly told.
On December 13, 2006, a month after the last applicant had been turned down, a letter arrived at city council from Chombo. Addressed to the then town clerk Tendai Mahachi, Chombo’s letter expressed his desire to buy Stand 61. He wanted it for residential purposes.
Continued next page