Trial of ex-council bosses opens

Source: Trial of ex-council bosses opens | The Herald November 26, 2019

Trial of ex-council bosses opensTendayi Mahachi

Prosper Dembedza Court Correspondent
The trial of former Harare City Council (HCC) town clerk Tendayi Mahachi and his two suspected accomplices, Sekesai Makwavarara and Michael Mahachi, on corruption charges opened yesterday with the three denying the charges arising from the US$80 000 Airport Road contract in a land-for-work deal with a Ukrainian company.

The three, in their defence, argue that the charges being levelled against them were malicious and that the decision to engage Augur Investments to put in the road in return for 107 572 hectares of council land was collectively made by the then caretaker Harare City Council.

Mahachi’s lawyer Mr Admire Rubaya told the court that the caretaker council in place at the time ratified the agreement and no criminal liability could be attached to Mahachi as he did what he was supposed to do as a council employee.

Yet he was the only one being prosecuted, not those who approved the project.

“My client never deviated from his responsibilities and on June 22, 2007, a memorandum-of-understanding was done after the HCC committee authorised to implement the development projects which included construction and upgrade of the Airport Road,” Rubaya said.

Makwavarara’s lawyer, Mr Musindo Hungwe condemned the prosecution for selectively picking on his client.

His client, the lawyer argued, had been incriminated in the offence only after she left council.

Mr Misheck Hogwe, who is representing Michael Mahachi told the court that the then Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning had endorsed the deal after a series of meetings had been held between HCC and Augur Investments.

Prosecutor Mr Zivanai Macharaga led evidence from Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) investigator Zondai Makawa who gave evidence on how the deal was an offence.

Mr Makomo rolled over the trial to today.

Allegations are that sometime in 2007, Makwavarara, acting in common purpose with Tendai Mahachi and fellow commissioner Michael Mahachi, corruptly caused council to enter into a memorandum of agreement with Augur Investments without a resolution and without following tender procedures.

The State alleges on September 4, 2007, Makwavarara and her accomplices entered into a shareholders’ agreement on May 21, 2008 with Augur Investments, a foreign-based company purportedly based in Ukraine.

The agreement and MOU were for the construction and upgrading of Airport Road at a cost of $80 million.

Augur Investments was to fund and provide expertise for the project, while the City of Harare was to cede land to the company.

The project was allegedly divided into four phases and was to be completed in 2010.

The shareholders agreed that the title deeds of the land were to be held in trust by law firm Coghlan Welsh and Guest pending transfer upon completion and certification of work done.

But Makwavarara, reportedly acting in cahoots with her accomplices, had hatched a plan to violate provisions of the law and engaged Augur Investments, a company which was not registered in Zimbabwe under the Companies Act and under the Zimbabwe Investment Authority at the time of the agreement.

The company was later registered in 2010 after the lifespan of the contract had expired.  The engagement of Augur Investments by the accused persons was in violation of the Urban Councils Act, which provides for service providers and tenders by local authorities.

Augur Investments did not complete the project due to lack of capacity to handle projects of such a magnitude. The project was later taken over by the Government through the Department of Roads and was financed by the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara).

Due to their actions, the State alleges that the City of Harare suffered prejudice of $80 million being the value of the 107 572 hectares transferred to Augur Investments.