Councils land probe goes national

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The Herald

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations Editor
Extensive land fraud involving councillors and council executives is now suspected to be widespread and the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) is spearheading a nationwide probe on the main urban councils to arrest and prosecute all corrupt elements.

The head of SACU Mr Thabani Mpofu said the illegal land deals recently unearthed in Harare were not peculiar to the capital city alone. Preliminary reports show that probable corruption was also rife in other cities like Mutare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Masvingo.

Mr Mpofu said SACU will work with other investigating arms, the police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), to investigate the cases.

“There is a comprehensive investigation into massive corrupt land allocations in most urban cities. We received information that the malpractices noted in the recent Harare land scandal, are also happening in other major urban centres like Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo and Gweru.

“The emerging thread shows that councillors are working with executive council officials to corruptly parcel out or allocate themselves tracts of land. To that end, SACU and all State institutions involved in fighting corruption are now seized with the investigations. There will be no sacred cows. Those caught on the wrong side of the law will be prosecuted without fear or favour,” he said.

SACU was appointed by President Mnangagwa in 2018 to collaborate with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and other such institutions in the fight against corruption.

It is also responsible for

assisting ZACC and other investigative agencies of the State in the perusal and consideration of corruption dockets, subject to the issuance of authority to prosecute by the Prosecutor General.

It also prosecutes corruption cases referred to the National Prosecuting Authority by investigative agencies.

The overall objectives of the unit are to improve efficiency in the fight against all forms of corruption and to strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the national mechanisms for the prevention and fight against corruption in accordance with the anti-corruption strategy.

Over a dozen Harare City Council officials, including MDC Alliance Mayor Herbert Gomba, human resources and former housing director Matthew Marara, the city’s town planner Samuel Nyabeze and surveyor Munyaradzi Bowa have been arrested over the $1 million Kuwadzana stands scandal and the efforts to cover up the illegal deal.

Some were arrested for corrupt land deals done in other parts of Harare.

But their arrest could just be a tip of the iceberg of the rot in MDC Alliance run councils countrywide that have been invaded by the party heavyweights to finance their fancy lives, sponsor subversion as well as set a war chest for the 2023 elections.

Top police officers — an Assistant Commissioner and a Superintendent — were arrested together with two junior officers for allegedly covering up for the scandal in their investigations. A chief public prosecutor in the National Prosecuting Authority was also arrested over the scandal after being allocated a stand, allegedly as a pay-off.

Investigations are still ongoing in Harare with indications that more could be arrested over the saga.

Several other politicians have been implicated in the Harare City Council corruption saga, most being members of the opposition MDC-A, which is running the affairs of Harare.

They were allocated stands without following the proper procedure.

As part of the corruption, a process that could take weeks or months to complete would be done in less than two hours, while council resolutions could be fast-tracked to ensure those who were sold the residential stands, often jumped the housing waiting list and had their residential stands in a matter of hours.

Residents in all Harare suburbs, have been complaining for several years that public open spaces on council land, and in particular wetlands, are suddenly rezoned for development without any of the required planning procedures and that a developer suddenly appears. Even if the rezoning was justified, questions arise over how a particular developer for council land is chosen, or allowed in without any competitive bidding.

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