Felex Share and Alec Mubani
More than 20 000 home-seekers, mostly civil servants, lost $57 million to land barons in shady land deals in Caledonia Estate involving unscrupulous district administrators, co-operatives leaders, land developers and surveyors. Investigations by a committee set up by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo revealed that land barons used names of politicians and high ranking Government officials to dupe desperate home seekers.
The committee recommended the arrest of wrong doers comprising politicians, senior civil servants and land developers.
Of the $57 million, co-operative members lost to land barons, the syndicate leader, Mr Nelson Mandizvidza, allegedly pocketed $2,8 million.
Caledonia has 23 000 residential stands measuring an average of 300 square metres.
Home seekers were made to pay between $3 500 and $5 000 for a stand.
Presenting the findings to Dr Chombo on Tuesday, chairperson of the investigating committee, Mr Percy Toriro said district administrators for Goromonzi and Mabvuku-Tafara parcelled out stands irregularly, while there was gross abuse of funds by co-operatives leaders and lack of professionalism by land developers and surveyors.
He said if the situation were left to run its course, co-operatives members could suffer a prejudice of $97 million paying for illegal stands.
It also emerged that of the 20 phases in Caledonia, only three have approved layouts from the Department of Physical Planning.
“The manner in which identified individuals parcelled land to each other in the different phases of Caledonia reminds one of the colonial scramble for Africa when the continent was being divided and claimed by different colonial powers,” said Mr Toriro.
“District Administrator for Goromonzi then, a Mr H Mandizvidza, allocated Phase 14 to Mr Nelson Mandizvidza. In all their transactions, the DA would use clumsily handwritten authorisation letters. Nelson was allocated 70 hectares of land and he potentially benefited to the tune of $2,8 million in Phase 14 alone as he sold 800 stands at $3 500 each.”
It could not be ascertained if the two were related or not by late yesterday.
He added: “Most of the transactions were cash and some were even difficult to trace because there would be no evidence and some were SSB deductions from civil servants. Some were even daring and collected money from soldiers.”
Mr Toriro said there was serious abuse of “power and politics”, with lack of strict oversight by the Harare City Council worsening the situation.
Caledonia Farm was incorporated into the Harare municipal boundary through Statutory Instrument 119 /2012.
Said Mr Toriro: “People there will always tell you they are working with someone big. There is serious impersonation and use of national leaders’ names in the commission of fraud, maladministration and creation of institutions. There was a school opened and the owners purported it was owned by a high ranking national figure and they even lied that he was paying party fees.
“All phases are personal and when asking about each area, people would respond: ‘Phase 14 kwaMandizvidza, Phase 15 kwaChareka, or ku16 kwaBaiso’.”
Mr Toriro said land reserved for schools was illegally turned into residential stands by land surveyors.
“A co-operative called Rekai Tangwena created 170 stands on a secondary school site, 148 stands on a primary school site,” he said.
“In Phase Six, 70 stands were allocated in an area preserved for a school. This is an issue because when we were doing planning calculations, Caledonia is supposed to have 44 schools but there are only 22 schools on the layout and this means a deficit.”
He said the co-operative concept was abused as people would start as co-operative leaders before turning into land developers.
“Co-operative leaders, apart from receiving contributions, entered into deals with service providers to give them stands for services rendered,” Mr Toriro said.
“Pure Gold received a number of stands from people that they had serviced land for. They were not wrong themselves but what this meant was that the records would finally be wrong at the end.”
Dr Chombo called for the arrest of those fingered in the shady deals.
“In any particular development, rules and regulations that apply must be followed,” he said.
“Any officials of Government that committed any offence should be dealt with and other developers should be censored or have their licences cancelled.
“Police should go for the land barons, land developers, planners and all professionals that were involved.”
Recently Kuwadzana East housing co-operative members wrote to Small, Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development permanent secretary Mrs Eveline Ndlovu alleging that some members of the management committee had gobbled up about $90 000 buying luxuries.
The petition was signed by members of the supervisory committee, management executive and community members.
“As members of the co-operative, we write to complain and demand immediate removal of co-operative executive members from office as well as criminalisation of the same people,” said the cooperative members
“We have been prejudiced as members of our contributions of over $90 000. There is barely a balance of $2 000 in the account.
“The executive is withdrawing money from the accounts and buying cars, personal assets and properties with public funds.
“For example, the secretary, Mr Gwaze has just bought himself a luxurious Japanese car. The self-proclaimed adviser, Mrs Mazarura recently painted, face-lifted her house and acquired several new assets.”
The members said their management committee claimed that they had used the money to bribe officials from council, government and Zanu-PF to release the land.