Sydney Kawadza Mash West Bureau Chief
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing chief director Mr Christopher Shumba yesterday accused the Department of Physical Planning for the land debacle at Mt Hampden, the site where Government is setting up a new city.
Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry in Urban State Land sitting in Chinhoyi, Mr Shumba laid the blame on his former colleague, Department of Physical Planning principal director Mrs Ethel Mlalazi for procedurally approving layout plans from a developer, Delatfin Investments.
Mr Shumba also accused the Zvimba Rural District Council management for “sleeping on duty” by courting potential litigation from Delatfin Enterprises whom they entered into an agreement for the 744ha Haydon Farm development.
Former Zvimba RDC chief executive Mr Peter Hlohla had accused Mr Shumba and Mrs Mlalazi of interfering in the allocation of land in favour of their cronies in the lucrative area when he appeared before the same commission on Thursday last week.
However, Mr Shumba, in agreeing with inquiries from commissioners on procedural malfeasance, said the Department of Physical Planning should not have approved Delatfin Investments’ layout plans.
“All that was happening when we were in another ministry and this was happening in Mrs Mlalazi’s department in another ministry,” he said.
Mr Shumba said his department was in the Ministry of Rural Development, Promotion and Preservation of National Culture and Heritage which he said was considered to be “inferior” by other departments.
He said the department also conducted an audit to verify and assist Zvimba to get back the land.
“The way land was being taken from our local authority was not a fair way of doing things and in fact what was happening to Zvimba was not fair where you give a local authority 744ha and turn around and start giving other developers the same land,” he said.
Mr Shumba said land was being illegally moved from a rural area for urban development.
He said the Zvimba RDC had entered into an agreement with Delatfin for 744ha with the latter getting a further 120ha which was not part of the original deal leaving with 240ha in the lucrative area.
“This took place while we were in the Ministry of Rural Development and I could not have taken part in this because this came through as an approval of the layout plan not any other in terms of my side as a ministry official. They submitted their plan and the Department of Physical Planning approved their plan,” he said.
Mr Shumba said approval of the layout plan from Harare instead of Zvimba RDC or the provincial office was the source of the problems bedevilling the development at Haydon Farm.
“This plan should not have been approved from the Department of Physical Planning. I don’t know how they approved it, but this is where it went wrong because they should not have approved without sufficient paperwork relating to layout plan,” he said.
He, however, noted that Delatfin should have been made aware of the other developers getting land from the 744ha which is part of the agreement with Zvimba RDC.
“This was done in the Department of Physical Planning and headed by Principal Director Madam Mlalazi, Delatfin proceeded and implemented the approved layout plan which happened to be part of the 744ha under the Zvimba-Delatfin Agreement,” he said.
The senior Government official also blamed management at Zvimba RDC under Mr Hlohla for sleeping on duty as they did not update their agreement with Delatfin from the 744ha, which is bound to attract further litigation.
He said the sequence of numbers on the layout plan also indicated that the approval of the plan was flawed.
“I am not well versed with the way things are handled, but there is something wrong in terms of what happened there because if Zvimba is disowning the plan and the Department of Physical Planning approved it and then the Department of Physical Planning should be able to explain what happened.
“This is actually where our main problem lies, the approval of that plan is what created all the problems. If the plan was approved by that department, they must be able to explain how they got the plan and how they approved it,” he said.
The commission chaired by Justice Tendai Uchena, started its public hearings in Mashonaland West on Wednesday last week, with officials from various Government departments and councils revealing massive interference from senior officers from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
Delatfin Investments is owned by Engineer Felix Munyaradzi and had gone into partnership with the Zvimba RDC to develop low-density stands at Haydon Farm in Mt Hampden.
Mt Hampden is where Government intends to move its offices when construction of the new Parliament Building is completed.
The commission also asked Mr Shumba to submit a written report on the issues arising, but he is also expected to appear again when officials from the Zvimba RDC make their submissions.
Mr Hlohla resigned as chief executive after being suspended recently pending further investigations in to his conduct while in office.
The commission is sitting in Mashonaland West until August 10 when more evidence from beneficiaries, land developers and Government officials are expected to give evidence.