Mashamhanda sues council

HARARE - Harare businessman Alex Mashamhanda is claiming financial damages from the city council for loss of profit.

A $1,2 million service station and food court that Mashamhanda was building in Mbare was stopped by Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi in February in what the businessman says is a political conspiracy involving Local Government minister, Ignatius Chombo and the state-run Environmental Management Agency (Ema).

Mashamhanda has commenced proceedings against the city council for compensation after Mahachi revoked the deed in February ostensibly because council had noted “irregularities”, scuttling completion of the service station situated next to Matapi Police Station.

Ema claimed the project breached Section 37(4) of the Ema Act. Construction of the service station, that employed over 100 workers, was stopped after Mashamhanda had pumped over half a million dollars into the project.

The businessman is now demanding compensation from the city council after Ema advised the project cannot proceed until an environment impact assessment certificate has been issued.

The city council discussed the matter at Town House, with mayor Muchadeyi Masunda stating that ‘‘the developer of Stand 29 615 Mbare Township is threatening to take legal action against the City of Harare for financial prejudice which had allegedly arisen from the suspension of the development of the stand’’.

‘‘The Ema has flagged certain issues which had since been addressed,’’ Masunda said.

In a letter to Ema director Petronella Shoko, Mashamhanda claims there was a conspiracy involving Chombo, Mahachi and her to scuttle the project.

Mashamhanda questions the Ellen Chivaviro-led probe team that was appointed by Chombo.

The team’s mandate was primarily to probe the alleged supply of sodium cyanide to the City of Harare by Mashamhanda’s MT&N Distributors (Pvt) Ltd but ended up extending its mandate to the Mbare filling station.

After wrapping up its investigations, Chombo told a news conference on September 28 that the probe team had recommended that the city council also stops Mashamhanda’s Mbare fuel project “because of environmental challenges considering it is located on the stream bank of Mukuvisi,” he said referring to the river heavily polluted with industrial effluent.

‘‘That piece of land is better reserved for the expansion of the Zimbabwe Republic Police station,’’ Chombo said.

Mashamhanda says Chombo was usurping the responsibility of the local authority in a bid to pursue a vindictive political agenda against him ostensibly because he suspects he funds the MDC and is a close ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mashamhanda says Shoko — the Ema director had worked in cahoots with Chombo to raise flimsy environmental concerns to stonewall the project.

Shoko was appointed by Chombo on July 19 as a member of the probe team. ‘‘Your name appears on the team,’’ Mashamhanda says in a letter to Shoko, alleging she is a Chombo’s crony. ‘‘You eventually did not appear on the committee but had an Ema representative presumably representing your interests.’’

Shoko was unreachable for comment as she was said to be out of the country.

‘‘We paid your organisation for the services (of conducting an environment impact assessment) and expect professionalism in return,’’ Mashamhanda's letter reads. -
Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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