Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
At least half of those who bought the 150 stands illegally created and sold in Kuwadzana, Harare, allegedly by a group of corrupt municipal officials, are set to lose their land and any houses built on them although regularisation of the sales for genuine home owners duped by the corrupt officials may be allowed.
The 150 stands were created on public open spaces, connected illegally to existing sewer and water mains and sold privately for a total of US$1 141 779 by corrupt officials who pocketed the cash.
The deal has seen multiple arrests: a group of officials arrested for creating the unauthorised layouts and arranging connections and the creation of municipal accounts; a group of police officers, including an assistant commissioner, and a chief public prosecutor for abetting the cover up of the deals; and another group of officials for agreeing to the allegedly irregular allocation of Westlea stands to those engaged in the cover-up.
Now, Harare City Council has to figure out what to do with those who were swindled.
An internal council report titled “Harare Land Scandal” presented to Acting Chamber Secretary Mr Charles Kandemiri by the city chief security officer Dr Collen Tongoona suggests dividing the 150 stands into two groups, with the genuine home-seekers who were conned, but who acted in good faith, being allowed to remain, but paying full value for their serviced land.
And those who were fully aware of the swindle would lose their land and have any buildings demolished, as the council is entitled to do under a court order.
“The report noted with concern that there were two categories of beneficiaries to the illegal land transactions, that is, the unsuspecting individuals that fell prey to these perpetrators and the allottees who were fully aware of the racket,” the report revealed.
“It is against this background that we recommend that the allottees who cooperated with investigations be regularised provided they pay the full value of their stand. Demolition notices already issued should be acted upon speedily before illegal allottees effect occupation to avoid costs associated with removals of same.”
The report further recommended that lifestyle audits be effected on employees designated in corruption-prone sections of the municipal administration.
“Regular staff rotations should be effected to thwart undue familiarity, a fertile ground for corruption,” read the report. “Council should consider automating the waiting list and allocation processes.”
Other recommendations made are that district officers and revenue officers should reconcile and verify every month newly-created property and sundry accounts.
Also, departments should exercise due diligence at the point of allocation in examining the correctness of layout plans and beneficiary information.
It was recommended that the council should consider ensuring original allocation letters are used for all transactions and processes in the City of Harare.
Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trust chairperson Mr Shepherd Chikomba said he was deeply concerned by the matters of corruption perpetrated by council officials in urban councils, which have been exposed and have become public knowledge.
“These listed criminal anomalies include the selling and allocation of stands, car sales, home industries, wetland invasions and a lot more,” he said.
“We demand the publication of the waiting list. The list should be public in all urban and rural district councils. This will increase transparency and thus minimise corruption.”
Those arrested in connection to the Kuwadzana scam include former housing director Matthew Marara, who was yesterday granted $10 000 bail by the High Court.