Innocent Ruwende Municipal Reporter
The battle for control of a piece of land in Harare’s prime Pomona area, which the High Court last year awarded to property and infrastructure development firm, Augur Investments, has taken a new twist as the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing is defying the court order to hand over the space claiming that it was acquired irregularly.
High Court judge Justice Clement Phiri last December ordered that Chinese company XGMA, the Local Government Ministry and UDCORP stop sub-dividing and selling land at Stand 654 of Pomona Township measuring 250 hectares which Augur lawfully received from Harare City Council as part of the payment for various projects it carried out for the local authority under a written agreement.
The ruling came after Augur and the Urban Development Corporation (Udcorp) got a directive from the ministry to allow XGMA to subdivide and sell stands on the piece of land triggering the court challenge.
In the court application which was granted, XGMA, the Ministry of Local Government, Udcorp and the Harare City Council were cited as the respondents.
The ministry is now appealing the decision in the Supreme Court on the grounds that Augur did not complete the project.
In an opposing affidavit, the ministry’s permanent secretary Engineer George Mlilo said Government had repossessed the land because Augur Investments did not finish one of the jobs, a road construction project eventually taken over and completed by the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration.
“The agreement between applicant and the respondents is therefore of no consequence in the given circumstances”, reads part of the affidavit.
Justice Phiri ruled that the respondents immediately stop the subdivision, servicing and selling of stands to third parties.
“Pending the return day, the applicant is granted the following order: That the first, third and fourth respondents restore peaceful and undisturbed possession of stand number 654 of Pomona Township.”
The judgment also awarded to Augur that “(on the return day) a final order that: The acts of the first, third and fourth respondents of subdividing, servicing and selling of stands in respect of Stand number 654 of Pomona Township is unlawful and therefore constitutes spoliation. The costs of the case for the respondents.”
Justice Phiri said the applicant had submitted copies of papers and agreements entered into between the parties before the dispute which showed Augur lawfully held and possessed the Pomona land as well as clearly demonstrated their entitlement to it which agreement the ministry had also been signatory to.
“It is this court’s considered view that the solution to the present dispute lies in the interpretation and analysis of issues raised in the context of the aforesaid highlighted provisions of this agreement.”
The Minister of Local Government, Saviour Kasukuwere last week was quoted saying that the deal was concluded corruptly in 2010 between the then council fathers led by Harare Commission chair Mr Michael Mahachi and the Minister’s predecessor Dr Ignatius Chombo who now heads the Home Affairs portfolio.
Augur, in its initial submission, argued that they never dealt with Mr Michael Mahachi, but the then town clerk who was in that position when the deal was clinched.
Responding to the article, one of the directors, Mr Mike Van Berk said: “As per the court papers, it is clear that the factual and contractual position is that both the City of Harare and the Ministry of Local Government owes Augur money in the form of land which the ministry together with the Chinese had been carving up and selling illegally and without prior knowledge or consent of Augur.”