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    Monday, 3 December 2018

    Commission puts Former First Lady ally in a corner

    Smelly Dube.

    PAMENUS TUSO

    BULAWAYO – A home-seeker who paid more than $1 500 towards the acquisition of a residential stand from former First Lady Grace Mugabe’s close friend Smelly Dube but failed to get anything has told a Government appointed commission of inquiry  that there are more than 1 000 people from Bulawayo who are in the same predicament.
    The woes of the home seekers are worsened by the fact that Dube is allegedly demanding 30% handling fee from anyone who wants to withdraw from the project plus $500 non-refundable deposit.
    Commissioner Petronella Musarurwa told Dube that was being unfair to the home seekers and accused her of punishing her clients although it is her company that breached the contract by failing to deliver stands in the area where the two parties had agreed.
     Several home-seekers who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into the sale of residential stands in and around urban areas at The Rainbow Hotel in Bulawayo  last week said they were exploited and treated unfairly by the Gweru-based land developer Dube who is allegedly refusing to reimburse them their money after her Cowdray housing project in Bulawayo collapsed.
    Most of the affected are civil servants with the bulk of them being teachers. The Civil servants accused the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Salary Service Bureau of hoodwinking them into thinking that the scheme was genuine since PSC actually sent representatives to schools to market the project.
    Dube who runs River Valley Properties broke the tradition and is one of the few land developers to bring her lawyers before the Commission. She was represented by Nqobani Sithole and Brain Chitsungo.
    Giving  evidence before the commission, one of the home-seekers Thandazile Dube  who says she was ripped off said on April 26, 2014 she entered into an agreement with River Valley Estates Properties T/a as Mahlaba Housing Programme to purchase a 250 square metre stand in  Cowdray Park .
    The beneficiaries were supposed to pay monthly instalments of $50 for 6 years.
    “Since 2014, I have been paying $50 every month until I stopped in 2016 after realising that the developer was not sincere. Stand number 182 which I was allocated did not exist and the area where it was supposed to be has never been serviced contrary to our agreement in the contract,” said Thandazile.
    Thandazile said when she stopped payment in 2016, she had already paid a total of $1 150 which she is now failing to get back from Dube.
    Another beneficiary, Tapheny Muza said she was introduced to the scheme by the PSC which contacted teachers at different schools through the respective heads.
    “I thought since the PSC was involved it was a genuine scheme.  People were even registering at Mhlahlandela Government Complex. We were told that the stands were in Cowdray Park and money was deducted from our salaries by the Salary Services Bureau,” said Muza.
    She said after paying $1 550 she has not received her stand or money.
    “We later read in the Press that there was a wrangle between River Valley Properties and Denver where the latter was claiming to be the real owner of the land. We approached River Valley officials after realising that there was a problem with the hope of getting clarification,” she said.
    After many visits to the River Valley offices in the city, they were told that they would be relocated to Rangemore  because the Cowdray Park project had collapsed.
    It later emerged that Rangemore farm where they had been promised stands belonged to the State.
    Dube once again promised to find them stands at the Bulawayo City council owned Goodhope Farm on the outskirts of Bulawayo.
    “When I realised that the company was not sincere, I demanded a refund. What angered me most is that after signing my withdrawal letter, River Valley officials claimed that I had breached the contract and the company would charge me 30% handling fee from what I had paid plus a non-refundable $500 deposit,” said Muza.
    The commissioners told Dube and her lawyers Nqobani Sithole and Brain Chitsungo that their treatment of clients was unfair.
    “Is it a not a breach of contract if you offer stand numbers to somebody and you fail to deliver that stand. Is this in sync with natural justice? These people are not in breach of any agreement. Why would you want to punish the clients for unforeseen circumstances?” asked Commissioner Musarurwa .
    Dube said River Valley was allocated the land in Cowdray Park under Okuhle Consortium and the offer letter was signed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of  Local Government..
    “The then Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo gave the green light to the initiative because civil servants had accommodation problems. The uptake by civil servants was good. The total area in Cowdray Park was 420 hectares which could accommodate 10 000 stands with the average stand being 350 square metres,” Dube told the commission.
    The commissioners told Dube and her legal team that her clients’ disgruntlement was justified because River Valley violated the contract.
    The Commission would place its report of findings before President Emmerson Mnangagwa who will decide on what course of action to take.
     

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