Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) into the Meikles Park deal in which Mutare City Council ceded the piece of land to a local businessman has opened a can of worms as real estate mogul Mr Joseph Sanhanga has also laid claim to the park.
Mr Sanhanga claims to be the last officially authorised leaseholder of the piece of land. Investigations by ZAAC are underway after investigators requested the local authority to provide all documents regarding the 2014 deal, which gave Dangamvura-Chikanga legislator Cde Isau Mupfumi, through his company Stallvic Enterprise (Pvt) Ltd, a lease on the land.
The deal was allegedly forced through by then Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo. Mr Sanhanga said he was approached by ZAAC officials inquiring about his involvement in the Meikles Park issue and believes that the abrupt termination of his lease in 1998 was unprocedural.
“I was pushed out of that deal and all the efforts and resources I channelled towards getting that land back were fruitless. Now I see there were corrupt elements who had developed green eyes for the lucrative land during my tenure. I felt cheated, but there was nothing much l could do. But we are now in a new dispensation and I want justice to prevail. I should have been given the first preference to buy that land since I was the leaseholder when council decided to sell it,” he said.
“I had a vision for the land that went well with my business interests and I had been led to believe the land would be sold to me.” According to documents seen by The Herald, Mr Sanhanga, through his company Glenrinnes, signed a lease to purchase agreement with the local authority on October 7, 1994.
The agreement had been approved by a full council on December 18, 1990 following his proposal for the purchase or lease of the public open space. The contract was supposed to be renewable after every 10 years until an agreement of sale was made, but council terminated it in 1998 and offered the land to the South African developer, McCormick Property Development.
“I only got to find out that council was in talks with McCormick to buy the property for $160 million through the media, I understand the deal was that the developer would build a bus terminus for the council for free,” said Mr Sanhanga.
The deal fell through after a public outcry as residents questioned the decision to give a foreign company the park when there was an indigenous businessperson interested in developing the same land.
Council then went on to offer the land to the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), a deal which again fell through after council repossessed Meikles Park in 2013, claiming that the pension authority had failed to develop it. The issue is still before the High Court. While the matter was still before the courts, council entered another deal with Cde Mupfumi under a lease-to-buy agreement, which is purported to have been under the instruction of Dr Chombo.
When Cde Mupfumi took over ownership of the park, vendors demonstrated against the deal. NSSA also opposed the move, claiming ownership of the same piece of land. It lodged its case at the High Court, but council argued that it had long repossessed the park after NSSA failed to develop it within the stipulated time. Mr Sanhanga availed receipts of payments made to the local authority on November 5, 2007 for rentals for Meikles Park amounting to $36 000.
“Despite several efforts to get recourse, there was never any response on the matter from either council or the Ministry of Local Government concerning my interests,” he said.