Harare councillors get land for a song

HARARE - A scandal is brewing in Harare City Council after councillors and a top official acquired commercial pieces of land for a song.

Councillors Girisoti Mandere, Thomas Muzuva and Masiye Kapare and director of Urban Planning Services Psychology Chiwanga have been allowed to buy the land in Msasa area for half the price paid by other members of the public.

A heated council meeting recently gave the green light for the deal despite official admissions that tender procedures were violated.

Harare city’s finance and development committee recently resolved to lease 10 industrial stands situated in Msasa to the four council insiders and six other firms at 30 cents per square metre per month.

The leases are valid for a decade, a situation viewed in some corridors as cushioning councillors whose terms are expiring in less than two months.

Eyebrows were raised because land with the same economic value was sold at 60 cents per square metre to members of the public just recently.

This caused a storm in a council meeting last week.

Council chief whip Victor Chifodya protested to council about the committee’s unfair business practices.

“We need to do business fairly. Last month some people (public) were told to pay 60 cents but now it is 30 cents. Is it because some officials are benefitting?” queried Chifodya during the council meeting at Town House.

Another councillor Sasha Jogi demanded that the committee should explain why the land is being parcelled to officials at such a low price.

“There should be a rationale why you (the committee) did that. Whether it is because you are giving a discount to officials or it is because of location, those justifications should be provided to council,” said Jogi.

Annual Trading, Parsof Investments, Elandriff, Rodrig Haulage, Glasglow Investments and Jacana Investments are companies that also benefitted.

The stands range from 3 266 to 11 887 square metres meaning the smallest stand is almost 11 times the size of a standard high density suburb stand.

Though mayor Muchadeyi Masunda had initially decided to defer the resolution until council demands were satisfied, the committee’s chairperson councillor Friday Muleya pleaded for the deal to be passed.

“The land valuers have done their job and recommended to us what they saw. As for the reasons, we will provide later but let it pass for now,” said Muleya.

And it was passed.

The stands, according to council policy, are supposed to be leased through tender but this was not done.

After the stipulated 10 years of leasing, the beneficiaries will be given an option to purchase the land on condition that “a principal building is erected within the initial lease period”.

Costs of surveying, road construction, sewer and reticulation will be paid by the beneficiaries. - Wendy Muperi

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