House sale scandal rocks council
A Harare City Council junior employee in the housing department, who is on suspension over allegations of abuse of office and corrupt parcelling out of stands, has become the owner of an expensive low-density suburban council house in Belvedere, meant for rent to a top manager, against all council policies.
This comes when council is overwhelmed with applications by serving senior managers and other staff seeking to be accommodated in council-owned houses and with a general policy that council-owned houses cannot be sold.
Investigations by The Herald revealed that Mr Aaron Tayerera, a clerical officer in Grade 11, who is among several council employees on suspension over corrupt land deals, was allowed to buy 49A Lancaster Avenue (also known as Stand 1448 Belvedere) for an undisclosed amount, stripping the local authority of its assets.
Normally he would be several grades too junior to be even allocated the expensive house as a rented property.
Sources say the property was sold for US$80 000, which raises the question of how the purchase was funded considering a council employee in Grade 11 gets a monthly salary in the region of $30 000, just under US$350 at the current auction rate.
But regardless of the price, which could be on the low side as well as too high for a clerical officer, the house is supposed to remain under council ownership accommodating serving top managers in need.
Access to decent accommodation is often necessary to attract top-end staff into council service.
Harare Acting Mayor Councillor Stewart Mutizwa confirmed the transaction and said it was totally unacceptable but had happened before his appointment.
“I am aware of the case but the position is no one is allowed to buy an institutional property. The circumstances under which the house was sold were unusual. Houses meant for our employees cannot be sold to anyone, no matter what grade the purchaser holds. Institutional houses must remain council property accommodating those employees in need.
“We are actually sitting on a backlog of employees in need of institutional accommodation and stripping council of its assets that way is unacceptable,” said Cllr Mutizwa.
Investigations by The Herald revealed that MDC-A councillors, some jointly implicated in the land deals with Tayerera, approved the sale of the property.
Asked to comment on the case, Tayerera said: “I don’t discuss such matters on the phone,” before hanging up.
Further efforts to locate Mr Tayerera failed until the time of going to print.
The criteria used in allocating Tayerera the house remains unclear considering he had never stayed at the property before and his grade is too low for renting the house, let alone for special permission to buy it.
In a criminal case pending at the Harare Magistrate’s Court, it is alleged that between 2018 and 2019, Tayerera and former housing director Matthew Marara hatched a plan to irregularly convert a public open space in Strathaven under council ownership into a residential stand and then sell it for personal gain.
They allegedly demarcated the land, gave it a fictitious stand number and sold it to an unsuspecting land seeker Aaron Gomo, 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.