Harare  Airport Road  paved with greed and corruption


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New moves to investigate the airport road deal would reopen one of the most sordid recent chapters in the country’s long history of greed and impunity.

The Zimbabwe’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Auditor General’s office have separately called for probes into the airport road contract. Construction of the 20km road, known as the Joshua Nkomo Expressway, is among dozens of cases of suspected corruption that ZACC wants to investigate, according to a report in the state controlled Sunday Mail.

An investigation would find how the taxpayers and Harare ratepayers ended up paying eight times more than was recommended, how the City of Harare gave away vast tracts of prime land to pay for the project, and the lead role played in all that by Ignatius Chombo, then Local Government Minister.

What is known already, from internal investigations by the City of Harare, a report by the Auditor General, and other separate investigations, is that;

  • The airport deal was awarded to Augur Investments without going to tender, and involved the City of Harare pledging 4000 hectares of land to the company as part payment;
  • Showing the level of impunity, Augur Investments at one point shared the same address with a company owned by Chombo, whose Ministry had overseen the awarding of the deal. An investigation found that Augur and Chombo’s Harvestnet Enterprises both listed 62 Quorn Avenue, Mt Pleasant, Harare, as their address;
  • Michael Mahachi, who was caretaker chairman of council at the time the contract was awarded to Augur, was also “project manager” for Augur. He sat in meetings where land was awarded to Augur;
  • Ratepayers and taxpayers ended up paying much more, in land and millions of dollars, than they should have;

A new airport road was first mooted back in the 1990s, but no serious moves were made towards its construction until after 2000.

It was a fairly big project at the time; a first phase would include a 20km stretch from the airport terminal onto the margins of the Harare city centre, while a second one would see an overpass stretching up to 10km to the new Enterprise road.

This would be a profitable project for whoever got the contract. In 2007, without going to tender, the Harare city council awarded the deal to Augur Investments. The company’s foreign address led to a small flat in an industrial district of Estonia’s capital, Tallinn.

The company was only registered in Estonia in September 2007, months after it had signed the airport road MoU in May. It was also registered in Mauritius.

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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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