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    Sunday, 16 June 2019

    Land Commission opens can of worms in Gweru

    Justice Tendai Uchena.

    •7 councils distance themselves from housing schemes  


    GWERU –
    The Commission of Inquiry into the Sale of State Land in and around urban areas since 2005 opened a can of worms in Gweru on Monday when all seven Midlands local authorities condemned and distanced themselves from land development projects done between 2005 and today.
    The councils namely, Gweru, Shurugwi, Zvishavane, Vungu, Tongogara, Runde and Chirumhanzu told the Justice Uchena led Commission at a pre-enquiry briefing held at the Government Complex in Gweru that they were not part to and were never involved in the allocations, planning or approval of schemes that were developed in the towns in the period under review.
    They therefore said according to the law the schemes were illegal. The briefing was attended by The Provincial Adminstrator, Abiot Maronge, Charles Mutumbairi the director in the Minister of State’s office, Provincial Lands Officer, Kudzai Katiyo, district administrators, council chief executive officers, land developers and many other stakeholders and it marked the start of the inquiry, which runs from June 10 to June 28, 2019. Part of the Commission’s mandate is to investigate the illegal sale of large swathes of urban State land by unscrupulous land barons, the development of substandard housing schemes that have no proper roads, electricity or water.  The Commission will also look into issues of double allocations and fraud.
    The six member Commission started its work in the Midlands with the briefing and then it had a programme to visit all housing stands developed in Gweru, Mvuma, Zvishavane and Shurugwi. After the visits, the Commission which is sitting as a court will be holding hearings from Village Lodge where all stakeholders including people who bought stands, land developers, Government officials, people with complaints are invited to give evidence after booking themselves with the Commission first.
    Drama erupted at Hertfordshire phase 2 when it emerged that two other people have offer letters or claims to the 300 hectare Hertfordshire Farm in which controversial Gweru businesswoman Smelly Dube has developed 1 546  stands in what is probably the single largest residential development in Gweru in many years.
    One Kanjoma produced an offer letter issued in 2006 for the same farm by the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture and he was given the farm for agricultural purposes. The offer letter which he showed to the Commission was not cancelled which means that it’s still valid.
    It also emerged at the meeting that another beneficiary identified as Hove was then given the same farm by the late Midlands Governor Cephas Msipa who ordered Kanjoma to leave without cancelling his entitlement to the same farm.
    “After being given the offer letter in 2006, I built a homestead but just as I settled to start work on the farm, I was called by Governor Msipa who told me to move out as the farm was now being given to Hove.
    “Hove came to my farm, destroyed my house and took over, but he never used it for agricultural purposes as he started subdividing the land into residential stands,” said Kanjoma.
    Still with this land dispute unresolved between the two, a third actor in the name of Smelly Dube emerged and started subdividing and selling stands, the Commission was told.
    The Commission asked the Provincial Lands Officer Katiyo to comment on Kanjoma’s story and she confirmed that Kanjoma and Hove were both given offer letter for the same piece of land.
    Katiyo however said that in 2011 Hove’s offer letter was cancelled but Kanjoma’s letter was not cancelled.
    Dube who looked livid during Kanjoma’s testimony questioned his motive in telling his story to the Commission now. She said that Hove had since been compensated for his land after being given some stands which he is selling and a stand to build his house on.
    The other five commissioners are Petronella Musarurwa, Dr Heather Chingono, Dr Tarisai Mutangi, Andrew Mlalazi and Stephen Chakaipa.
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