Shoddy Land Deals Haunt Chamisa Councillors
At least four Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) councillors elected in last week’s by-elections could have their joy short-lived following revelations that they face immediate suspension over alleged criminal abuse of office, The NewsHawks has learnt.
The plot to suspend the councillors, it has emerged, involves MDC-T councillors at Town House, Local Government ministry officials and individuals interested in doing business with the City of Harare.
The targeted councillors include former Harare mayor Herbert Gomba, who made a comeback through the by-elections after being recalled by MDC-T in 2020.
He had served as an MDC-T-sponsored mayor from 2018, representing ward 27 in Glen Norah.
The other named councillors facing suspension upon swearing in are Lovemore Makuwerere, Hammy Madzingira and Antony Shingadeya. They were all arrested last year and are facing criminal abuse of office charges.
“They (the four councillors) will not be allowed in and they are all going to be served with letters to stay at home. It’s not clear how things will develop because it depends on how their issues will end in the courts,” an impeccable source said.
Recently, The NewsHawks, working in collaboration with Information for Development Trust (IDT), revealed that some councillors — among them recently re-elected ones — were part of cartels fraudulently acquiring and selling municipal land in Harare.
The investigation, funded by the Fojo Media Institute and International Media Support (IMS), established that officials from the housing, estates and valuation as well as city planning departments were cashing in on a shambolic land bank.
Trusted sources indicated that the return of Gomba and the councillors might scuttle under-the-carpet arrangements that some councillors and senior staff had already hammered out in the absence of the four.
“A lot of things have happened in their (the re-elected councillors’) absence and their return will likely reverse all that and, on that basis, the plan is to block them.
“To do that, the issue of their criminal charges will be used as a basis to suspend them and ensure they do not interact with Town House at all costs,” another council official confided.
There is a precedent regarding the use of councillors’ history at Town House to further block them from resuming office.
Gomba’s successor at Town House, Jacob Mafume, is before the courts facing criminal abuse of office charges and has been repeatedly suspended by Local Government minister July Moyo, on the basis of the allegations that he is facing.
Moyo, a Zanu PF kingpin, is accused of using his office to frustrate and undermine opposition councillors so that the ruling party can gain a strong foothold at Town House.
“This move (to further suspend the re-elected councillors) is meant to protect deals entered into by the MDC-T — now led by Douglas Mwonzora — councillors and several companies linked to the government,” the second insider added.
“The city has warmed up to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa of late and they are assisting her in several projects she is undertaking across the country. The return of the Chamisa councillors would compromise that,” said the source.
According to minutes of council’s Education, Health and Housing committee meeting of 29 July 2021 that The NewsHawks is in possession of, the local authority supported Mnangagwa’s Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba and Nharirire Yemusha project that has seen her going on a whirlwind meet-the-people tour in both urban and rural areas.
Ironically, the committee that passed this resolution was previously chaired by Madzingira who has also been re-elected following a recall by MDC-T.
Madzingira is reportedly bent on reversing the endorsement of the First Lady’s project.
The minutes of the July gathering, which were endorsed by a full council meeting, stated that the local authority was open to future participation in philanthropic work by the President’s wife.
The CCC has already expressed its reservations regarding the Mnangagwa project.
The planned US$400 million Pomona dumpsite project is likely to face resistance from the returning councillors as well.
As reported recently, Moyo, the Local Government minister, reportedly arm-twisted the local authority to railroad the deal without following due procedure.
“That is one deal we will look at and you must know also that some of the councillors who were backing Mwonzora now have a point to prove that they are with us. They will do that by supporting our fight,” a senior Town House insider said.
Mafume and other CCC-aligned councillors who were expected back following the weekend polls have since described the deal entered into by German investors as “corruption on high energy” adding that there are many other deals being pushed through without due process.
The deal was signed by the City of Harare represented by the acting town clerk, Mabhena Moyo, and Geogenix BV represented by Miliad Lopa whose address was given as 520 H, 1017 EK, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Curiously, Geogenix BV has roped in controversial businessman Delish Nguwaya as its local representative in what sources said may point to the involvement of the first family in the deal.
Nguwaya is close to the Mnangagwa family, particularly the President’s twin sons Sean and Collins.
It also emerged that the Pomona deal was granted national project status to shield it from public tender scrutiny and protect it from being challenged, particularly by opposition councillors, through a “political force majeure event” clause.
Titled “Concession agreement to design, build and operate the Harare Pomona waste management facility and waste energy power plant”, the deal was signed in the presence of Moyo and Nguwaya.
Acting Harare mayor Stewart Mutizwa was not picking calls on the issue while Gomba said he was fighting to have his issues resolved in court.
He would not be drawn into commenting on the reported plot to bar him and other returning CCC councillors from assuming office.
But on the charges he is facing, he said: “It will end soon. The court cases will come to an end.”