Ministers clash over land

HARARE - Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Ambrose Mutinhiri and his Lands counterpart, Douglas Mombeshora, have clashed over ownership of land given to Manyame Rural District Council (RDC).

The duo’s wrangle emanates from a 309-hectare piece of land at Gilstone Farm which Manyame RDC took possession of in June last year, with the blessings of the then provincial minister, Joel Biggie Matiza.

However, officials from Mombeshora’s ministry turned up early this month to claim the land, arguing it was State property, which drew the ire of Mutinhiri, who succeeded Matiza.

In a September 1, 2016 letter to Mombeshora, Mutinhiri demanded clarification on the matter, arguing that the local authority had been granted permission to establish a rural service centre on the land in question.

Mutinhiri expressed worry that Mombeshora’s decision to repossess the land was putting the local authority in a difficult position as it had used public funds on the partial developments it has since done on the property.

  He said after they were offered the land, the RDC went ahead with the necessary administrative work which included consultative meetings, preparation for a concept development paper and drafting a layout plan.

“In view of the foregoing, I therefore seek clarification on what is happening. Manyame RDC has already used public funds on the land and they now feel threatened by the recent developments,” Mutinhiri said.  

Contacted for comment, Mombeshora professed ignorance of the council’s concerns.

“If they have any complaints they should come to us but as of now, I am not aware of any concerns from them. If they approached the provincial minister, they should get their answers from there or maybe they spoke to the permanent secretary,” he told the Daily News.

But documents show that Matiza, in his capacity as the Provincial Lands Committee chairperson, on June 2, 2015 gave the Manyame RDC permission to develop the land, despite the fact that Mombeshora had on March 5, 2014 objected to the RDC’s application.

Correspondence between the parties involved shows that Manyame RDC applied for the contested land in 2010 and earmarked it for development into a rural service centre, but bureaucracy stalled progress until last year.

The planned service centre was meant to cater for thousands of people who were resettled around the area during the land reform programme.

Part of it was supposed to be given to youths under Seke Empowerment Youth Association, an organisation registered under the Zimbabwe Youth Council.

The application was handled by Mashonaland East provincial chief lands officer, Wilfred Motsi, who wrote to the Lands recommending that Manyame RDC be allocated the land.

“As a province, we do not have any objection to the said rural service centre. The development of the rural service centre will go a long way to improve revenue generation for both the local authority and government,” read Motsi’s May 11, 2011 letter addressed to the ministry’s permanent secretary.

The letter was not responded to, prompting Motsi to then write to Mombeshora, who had just taken over the Lands ministry which is mandated to transfer any piece of State land directly to local authorities or the Local Government ministry for development.

However, a Provincial Lands Committee (PLC) comprising a provincial lands officer, provincial administrator and a traditional leader, also has power to allocate land, but subject to approval by the Lands ministry.

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