Alpha Construction boss Jonathan Gapare is desperate to gag The Insider because the Bulawayo City Council, which in October cancelled his contract to develop and build more than 500 houses in Cowdray Park, now wants $1.1 billion to rectify the mess his company made.
The council wants the money by today, December 2, but there are likely to be some hitches because Alpha is challenging the cancellation of the contract and “intends to take legal action if necessary to protect its interests”.
The council cancelled the contract on October 6 but only wrote to the company on November 2, giving it a month to pay up. It also demanded that Alpha should leave the construction site by November 16, but the company has refused to budge.
Alpha was awarded the contract in July 1996 but the agreement was only signed in February 2001. The council gave the company two years to complete the project but it has not completed it up to now.
Alpha claims that stories written by The Insider are “untrue” but the paper stands by its stories, which are all backed by official documents.
The company, which used to receive sympathetic coverage from the local media, has failed to rebut The Insider stories and had to resort to advertising.
It has also issued a gag on all committee members of the Cowdray Park (Section 12) Residents Association, barring them from interfering with its operations and “issuing unfounded, malicious and defamatory statements to the public at large and the press”.
Alpha claims that it completed 313 houses that are now occupied. It says two more are complete and unoccupied, 48 are roofed and are having final touches, 69 are at wall plate level, 12 at window level, 28 at slab level, 26 at foundation box level, eight at excavation level and 26 at ground level, making a total of 532.
But documents that The Financial Gazette has tell a different story. They show that Alpha is developing 517 stands. Some 261 houses are occupied, one tuckshop is occupied, two houses are complete but do not have toilets, two are at slab level, 10 at window level, 52 at wall plate level, 83 roofed, and 106 stands are vacant.
The council issued only 64 of the completed houses with occupation certificates.
“The developer had gone ahead to issue fake occupation certificates to the beneficiaries purporting that these were issued in terms of the Model Building Bye Laws,” one council document says.
“Occupation certificates could only be issued by the local planning authority. It was an offence for one to purport to issue these,” it says.
Alpha also claimed that it had completed 84.35 percent of the sewer system and 70 percent of the water reticulation system.
“As to road servicing we are advised that bush clearing is at 100 percent and boxing out at 100 percent,” the company’s lawyers said.
Documents that The Insider has show that excavations for water reticulation were complete but pipe laying and backfilling were at 63 percent giving an overall picture of 76 percent. For sewers, excavations were 96 percent complete while pipe laying and backfilling were at 69 percent giving an overall percentage of 78 percent.
They also show that “sub grade preparation” of roads was 90 percent complete but there were no pavement layers or surfacing which meant that overall, the roads were only 10 percent complete.
On encroachments, 117 houses were affected but this could end up affecting 220 stands. Alpha said all construction was done after consultation with city council inspectors.
“If encroachments occurred, the council is as much to blame as our clients, if not more,” Alpha’s lawyers said.
“As the final inspector, the city council should have realised that there were encroachments before any construction could proceed. If they did not, and our clients then built houses on the basis of the go ahead of the city council inspectors, then who is to blame?”
The council says “the developer constructed houses without informing the building inspector to inspect foundations. On making routine inspections, the building inspector would condemn the foundation, but they would not be rectified and would instead continue building.”
It even says the developer removed pegs that were put in by council surveyors “in an effort to conceal the encroachments”.
The council therefore wants $974 million from Alpha to complete the servicing of the stands since beneficiaries had already paid the company for this. It also wants an additional $150 million to rectify the encroachments.