Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Chitungwiza councillors and officials drove the municipality into bankruptcy through illegal land sales, as land in the dormitory town had become ‘a free for all’, the commission running the affairs of the council has said. An internal audit revealed that councillors and staff allocated themselves stands/land and undercharged by as much as $200 and proceeded to sell the same stands for $5 000. The bankrupt council owes various creditors, including statutory obligations of more than $62 million while the local authority is owed $49 million by residents, business and Government departments.
Speaking during a tour of Chitungwiza by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere and other senior officials from his ministry, the commission’s chairperson Mr Madzudzo Pawadyira said most of the problems bedevilling Chitungwiza would have vanished had council received what was due to it.
“We have been talking to the internal auditor and we have realised that land in Chitungwiza had degenerated into (a) free for all,” he said. “For instance, in a planned area, councillors and officials would go and identify land then come to council through planning department and develop site plans before selling the stands under a tree.
“Councillors would do the allocations and could even sell the same stand thrice even if it’s on an existing structure.”
Mr Pawadyira said there was a case in which the suspended mayor, Mr Phillip Mutoti, got a stand and sold it five days later, but council did not get cessation fees.
Addressing a crowd which gathered during the tour, Minister Kasukuwere urged the commission to restore trust between council and residents.
“As a ministry, we said enough is enough after seeing the rot in Chitungwiza which had sucked in the whole council,” he said. “I have given them (councillors) seven days to respond because each and every one of them has allegations levelled against them.”
Minister Kasukuwere suspended Mr Mutoti and all 24 councillors for corruptly allocating themselves tracts of land worth over $7 million.