BY VUSINDLU MAPHOSA
A social media message on the sale of residential stands purported to be from the Nkayi Rural Development Initiative (NRDI) has left the Matabeleland North rural district council divided.
Councillors and council workers are accusing the acting CEO Lawrence Mudimba and other local authority officials of clandestinely selling residential stands to home seekers without following proper procedures.
The NRDI, through the message to villagers, revealed that there were two sizes of stands at the district’s growth point measuring 2 100 square metres and 2 800 square metres.
Concerned councillors say as office bearers, they were not aware of the stands that were being allegedly parcelled out, but they got to know about the matter through a leaked communication by NRDI official Ken Ndlovu, who was informing people in the district that stands were on sale.
Councillors alleged that there was a lot of corruption in the council besides the land scandal, adding that proper procedures were not being followed before the stands were sold.
“Mudimba and his friends are selling stands illegally and allegedly get kickbacks from those who want to get stands urgently.
“Stakeholders, councillors and council employees don’t know that the stands are already on sale because we have never had such a resolution during our full council meeting.
“We intend to report these corrupt activities to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission soon,” says one councillor, speaking off the record.
“You need to expose this issue as Nkayi is burning because of Mudimba and others.
“They are selling these stands secretly.
“The council has been turned into a kangaroo playhouse with Mudimba parcelling stands to his friends without a council resolution.”
The councillors say Ndlovu’s controversial advert has spilled the beans and lifted a lid on what has been happening behind closed doors in a far as the sale of the council land is concerned.
Council staff, authorities allege, remain in the dark about the purported sale of stands.
“It was a surprise that people outside the council already have information about the stands being sold when we councillors do not know,” said another councillor, who requested not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
According to the local authority’s policies, when stands are to be sold, council staff must be informed together with councillors before they are advertised.
“The procedure is that council staff be informed together with councillors, then stands are advertised,” the councillor said.
“This is the procedure, but Mudimba and his accomplices are not following these procedures which makes his action highly criminal.”
The councillors believe Ndlovu started circulating the message about stands after a fallout with Mudimba on some spoils they were supposed to share after the sale of the stands. Mudimba, however, dismissed the allegations, saying the stands were not yet out.
He said a feasibility study was being carried out to identify and peg land for sale.
Mudimba said he saw the NRDI message and revealed that it had divided council.
“At the moment we are not selling stands,” Mudimba said.
“There was a message from NRDI, which was circulating that we are selling stands here. It is not true.
“At the moment we are in the process of pegging the site for the new stands and after that the records will be sent to the ministry.
“We are not yet in a position to tell how many stands will be there until we are told by the department of physical planning.
“We cannot advertise the stands unless the whole process is complete.
“The problem is that these people just circulated the message and we do not know where they got that information from.
“I have been looking for them to hear where they got that from, you never know; maybe I am saying I am in charge when someone has taken over.
“That message has created problems between us and councillors, who think that we are doing underhand deals.”
Council chairperson Jameson Mnethwa also dismissed the message as a lie.
Mnethwa said villagers panicked after seeing department of physical planning officials moving around the place surveying the land and concluded that stands were up for grabs.
“It’s a lie,” he said. “People saw officials from physical planning moving around the area surveying the land and started spreading ramours that stands were up for sale.
But Ndlovu said he stood by what he posted on WhatsApp platforms.
“I wouldn’t send that information if I didn’t verify with people at Nkayi first,” Ndlovu said.
“You’re in Zimbabwe; you’ve to follow up by calling Nkayi to check if it’s real and how to get a stand.
“I only wrote information I was given by the councillor and some of our members who went to the offices.
“Are the stands still there? I don’t know, I don’t work there. I can’t do more than I’ve done.”
Mudimba fell out with most of the councillors following the retrenchment of former CEO Zimbabwe Ndlovu.
He accused his predecessor of maladministration and abuse of resources. Some councillors were against the move which saw Ndlovu being retrenched on January 8.
Since then the councillors have written several petitions accusing Mudimba of double standards in which they allege he facilitated the removal of Zimbabwe so he could take over as CEO.
Mudimba said he was working flat out to see to it that the process to allocate stands is regularised so that he can clear his name.
“We are pushing so that these stands are officially out and to clear the air on the allegations being levelled against us,” he said.
“Once all is done and completed, may be all this noise will go away.”
Davison Moyo, a villager, said there was stinking corruption in the stands allocation though a lot of investigations need to be further done to get to the root of the matter.
“Where there is smoke it’s certain that there is a fire. There is a lot of corruption involved in the selling of stands here in Nkayi. I know there is one Sikhethile Moyo, a community member, who got a stand through such clandestine means. More needs to be unearthed to stop this rot,” he said.
Sikhethile Moyo, who is alleged to have benefited from the stands scandal, declined to comment. Instead she demanded to know who gave the reporter her contact.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, I don’t work at council,” Sikhethile said.
“In the first place, who gave you my number? That is the first thing I want to know before we talk.”
Meanwhile, Davison said the advertisement of stands had triggered interest from South Africa-based locals, who visit the council to look for housing land to buy.
*This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a non-profit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.