Chombo and the rot at Harare City Council


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“Director (of Urban Planning Services) Psychology Chiwanga responded to the Minister’s application advising him that he would assist Dr Chombo to get the stand,” the councillors investigation found. “The Director also recommended to Council that, the Minister be sold the stand without going to tender as per Council Policy.”

On March 25, 2008, council pegged the price on the property and, the very same day, sold the stand to Chombo. Three days after Chombo bought the property, the council applied for “change of land use,” to allow it to be used for residential purposes. Who did the council apply to? To Chombo himself. It was, predictably, approved immediately.

“Director Chiwanga was acting more like Minister Chombo’s agent since he influenced the Commission to sell the stand without going to tender as per the Council policy and he continuously updated him on progress on the matter,” the report said.

The councillors investigating committee found that the Minister would spot a piece of land he liked, informed his allies at council, have them hold off any other bidders, before having council apply to him for change of land use of the stand he wanted. This is how Chombo ended up with a swathe of properties, all owned through a web of shelf companies.

“The Minister of Local Government also benefited from these irregularities by acquiring several stands for himself through his Investment Vehicle companies, which include Harvest-net investments, Waywick Investments, Waycorn Investments, Tonewick Investments and Nedbourne Investments.”

Said the councillors: “Contrary to Council policy that an individual must not get more than one residential property from the Council, the Minister acquired vast tracts of land within Greater Harare and registered them in companies associated with him.”

Chombo, according to the report, used these same tactics to acquire three stands in Glen Lorne. He simply “gave a directive” to council to surrender the land for free to the government. There is a “10% commonage” on land retained by government for council. The land is meant for future public developments, such as schools, police stations and hospitals. However, the land Chombo took over, ostensibly on behalf of government, was sold off to private buyers.

Among those who got these stands were Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri and Debra Marufu, the wife of Reward Marufu, first lady Grace Mugabe’s late brother.

“All the stands were sold to people who were not on the housing waiting list through directives from the Minister. This was against the standing council policies and regulations.”

Because the land transfers were not done by the book, which must include “advice of sale forms”, it is most likely that whoever is holding this prime land is not paying rates. There is no official record of them owning the land, so they may be sitting on the land for free. This is likely costing ratepayers large sums in lost potential revenue up to today.

Continued next page

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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