By Byron Mutingwende
Analysts have branded the Harare South land debacle as one of the worst cases of corruption in Zimbabwe since the Willowgate scandal.
This came to light during a press conference organised by the leadership of Southlea Park Home Ownership Association held in Harare Thursday at which they voiced their concerns about the imminent eviction by businessman Philip Chiyangwa who is reported to be claiming the ownership of the said land.
Southlea Park is a settlement situated about 17km South of Harare and falls in Harare South Constituency. It was birthed by the government of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme commonly known as Garikayi/Hlalani Kuhle.
The government acquired and offered a consortium of 56 companies about 605 hectares for housing development for the benefit of the employees. To date approximately 8000 families are settled there.
Addressing journalists, the president of the Southlea Park Home Ownership Nathan Nyambuya said it was unfortunate that the families are now living in fear of being evicted by Philip Chiyangwa and Sensene Investment who are claiming to be the new owners of the land consequently seeking huge sums of money in so called compensation for the remainder of Odar Farm measuring 605, 8092 hectares.
“The land was owned by Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA), a consortium of white commercial farmers, held under deed transfer number 5816/1985. In an affidavit, one Andrew Ferreira, president of ZTA, noted that it was resolved that the remainder of Odar Farm was to be transferred into a company called Senseni Investment (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of Vanac Holdings which was the investment arm of ZTA. The Government Gazette of June 16th 2006 confirms the same.
“The minister of land and rural resettlement, in his communication to the ministry of local government, public works and national housing confirmed the land belonged to ZTA at the time of acquisition, “ Nyambuya argued.
In 2009, Philip Chiyangwa was given a special Power of Attorney to represent ZTA regarding issues surrounding the remainder of Odar Farm. In the same year, ZTA was interdicted from transferring the remainder of Odar Farm to Sender Investments by the High Court.
In 2010 the acquisition of the remainder of Odar Farm was confirmed by the administrative court. In 2013, ZTA appealed to the Supreme Court and the appeal was dismissed with costs.
The ruling brought relief on the residents who kept on developing land and waiting for the government valuation report that would pave way for compensation of previous Farm owners, ZTA. During that period, disturbing events began to unfold, much to the shock of residents.
On 19 December 2014, the principal director in the ministry of local government, Rtd Col. Mhakayakora, being acting permanent Secretary wrote to the executive chairman of Pinnacle Property Holdings, Philip Chiyangwa, resolving to return the remainder of Odar Farm to Sensene Investments, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pinnacle Property Holdings.
It is understood that Chiyangwa conveniently bought into Sensene Investments sometime in 2014 but when Odar Farm had been successfully acquired and confirmed in the administrative court.
Commenting on the development, Jacob Mafume, spokesperson for the People’s Democratic Party said what was happening in Harare South was the biggest corruption case since Willowgate.
“The Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) and other law enforcement agents should be ceased with this matter immediately. It is rent-seeking behavior if not criminal for Philip Chiyangwa to claim ownership of a designated piece of land and for the government to say that it has consented to the ownership of the land to Chiyangwa,” Mafume said.
Transparency International Zimbabwe weighed in by saying that the development smacked of organised collusion to fleece residents of their hard earned money.
“For residents numbering over 8000 households to claim that they are being asked to pay $4500 per household to one man for what is essentially state land is shocking, “ TIZ said.
It added that the lack of transparency within the land allocations provided a fertile ground for corruption resulting in the proliferation of dubious housing cooperatives and the emergency of land barons.
It was also ironic that the minister of local government Saviour Kasukuwere was running around presenting himself as a paragon of virtue, banning allowances for city councillors whilst paying a blind eye to the fact that Chiyangwa was robbing citizens under his nose.
“If he is not in collusion with Chiyangwa then he must act because leaving Chiyangwa in charge of that land is like asking a hyena to take good care of goats,” said one Charles Sonai, an affected Harare South resident.
Despite the above shenanigan, Section 295 paragraph 1-4 gives the guidelines on compensation for acquisition of previously acquired agricultural land. Remainder of Odar Farm clearly falls under paragraph 3 which provides for compensation from the state only for improvements that were on the land when it was acquired.
Mafume, a legal practitioner argued that Chiyangwa made effort to change from being general agent of ZTA to owner of Sensene, a subsidiary of ZTA.
“It was to prejudice the state and make the farm appear indigenous owned on acquisition and thereby qualifying under paragraph 1 which provides for compensation by the state for the land and improvements there on acquisition. Conveniently the government officials chose to be blind to this.
“Paragraph 4 clearly states that compensation must be assessed and paid in terms of an Act of Parliament, not by negotiation with the previous owner,” Mafume said.
The Southlea Park saga is a manifestation of high level corruption involving influential people in society, in connivance with high-level government officials. The sequence of events reveals manipulation of facts and generation of documents to bring about confusion to cover up the true state of affairs.