THREE City of Harare top officials, including director housing and community services Addmore Nhekairo, his predecessor and now director human and capital resources Matthew Marara were yesterday denied bail.
The regional magistrate at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts hearing the bail application found that there were significant risks that Marara and co-accused Aaron Tayerera would abscond and that Nhekairo would interfere with a crucial witness.
Marara (49) is facing a fraud charge with Aaron Tayerera (48), who is the acting chief clerical officer, while Nhekairo (54) is facing a charge of criminal abuse of office.
Marara and Tayerera are charged with fraudulently selling council land in Strathaven for US$20 900 to an unsuspecting land seeker and pocketing the money.
Marara already has a pending case before the same court, with other co-accused, involving the illegal creation and sale of 150 stands in Kuwadzana, with irregularities in the approval of plans and production of fraudulent layout plans prejudicing council of US$1 141 779.
Nhekairo, the State alleged, allocated residential stands in Westlea to undeserving people who include police officers and a prosecutor, who have since been arrested and charged.
The three initially appeared in court on Saturday last week before regional magistrate Ms Bianca Makwande who remanded them in custody to yesterday for her ruling on their bail application.
In denying Marara and Tayerera bail, Ms Makwande said they were likely to abscond if granted bail considering that there are series of other cases being investigated involving stands in the same area.
“If the allegations as put forward by the State are proved in the trial, the accused persons stand to be sentenced to stiff sentences considering that they have offices which they hold. The evidence as presented by the State at this moment is extremely strong,” she said.
“Accused 1 (Marara) has a pending case of a similar nature before the same courts and is on bail. Taking into account the factors laid bare, I am in agreement with the State that the offences Marara is being charged of are similar. They are more than one, which shows that he is somewhat unrepentant.
“It was submitted by the State that there are series of other cases being investigated of other stands in the same area, which can induce the accused persons to abscond. Granting them bail in the circumstances would not be in the interest of justice. For these reasons I am of the view that there are compelling reasons and both accused persons are denied bail.”
In Nhekairo’s case, Ms Makwande said he was likely to interfere with State witnesses especially the key witness with whom he shares an office.
“The State managed to lay compelling reasons that the accused may interfere with State witnesses. It indicated that one Mrs Koke, a key witness in the matter, was going to give evidence that she was directed by the accused person to offer stands to the said beneficiaries.
“According to the papers produced in court, the accused person is still employed by the city of Harare and is not on any suspension and therefore the likelihood of interference is high. I share the same sentiments with the State that there is indeed a likelihood that the accused person if released on bail may interfere with State witnesses. That likelihood is real and not imagined considering the evidence that has been laid before the courts. Because of that reason, bail is denied.”
It is the State’s case that between 2018 and 2019, Marara and Tayerera hatched a plan to defraud Harare City of its land and they identified an open space in Strathaven.
They then demarcated the said piece of land and gave it a fictitious stand number and sold it to an unsuspecting land seeker Aaron Gomo through a real estate agent named Seef Zimbabwe, allegedly for US$20 900, the court heard.
To cover up for the offence, the pair, it is alleged, created an offer letter and agreement of sale backdated to 2017, which they signed and handed to Gomo.
The offence was discovered by the City of Harare Investigations department through a tip off.
Allegedly fraudulent and fake documents including a fraudulent file, fake layout plan, offer letter and agreement of sale manufactured by the pair are being held as exhibits.
On March 19, Nhekairo during the course of his duties as public official allocated residential stands to undeserving land seekers who are all public officials namely Obeylaw Moyo, Aaron Karuru, Claudious Majonga, Naboth Nyachega, Clemence Chimbare and Munamato Mutevedzi who were all involved in the investigation or subsequent desired prosecution of the alleged creation and private sale of 150 Kuwadzana stands in Harare.
According to the State, the said beneficiaries were not on the housing waiting list and Nhekairo abused his office by issuing council land without following proper procedure. The authored offer letters are going to be produced in court as exhibits.
Mr Michael Reza and Mr Brian Vito prosecuted while Mr Batanai Pesanai represented Nhekairo.
Marara has already been charged as a kingpin in the Kuwadzana deal whereby it is alleged that a group of council officials demarcated 150 stands on council land in Kuwadzana without following proper procedures of change of land use and creation of approved layouts and then sold these for personal benefit through attached interns and estate agents for a total of more than US$1 million or local currency equivalent.
In the remand hearings last week involving four police officers, a chief public prosecutor and three council officials it was alleged that investigations and court action were not pursued against some of those allegedly involved in the Kuwadzana land issue and that four police officers and the chief public prosecutor were allegedly paid off with allocations of council stands in Westlea, using allegedly fraudulent waiting list numbers, with the allocations allegedly approved by Nhekairo.