via Ruwa land scam | The Zimbabwean by Thabani Dube 16.10.13
More than 5,000 unsuspecting home seekers have been duped of over $1million and left in limbo by Zanu (PF) bigwigs who allegedly formed five bogus housing cooperatives to invade the 598 ha farm known as Remainder of Hofmoor in Ruwa.
Top officials implicated in the scam include the Minister of Local Government, Ignatious Chombo, former Minister of Lands and Rural Settlement, Herbert Murerwa, incoming Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Petronella Kagonye, and Joel Mujuru, elder brother of the late Brigadier General Solomon Mujuru. Kagonye, the new MP for Goromonzi South Constituency, which encompasses Ruwa, was at the forefront of Zanu (PF) efforts to unseat the popular MDC-T.
According to investigations by this newspaper the farm, commonly known as Solomio Farm or Eton Park, was listed for acquisition in the early 2000s but later delisted after it emerged that urban land could not be gazetted for rural resettlement.
It was then acquired by private developers Landela Safaris and ZB Bank to form Solomio Farms (Pvt) Ltd with the Ruwa Local Board getting a 10 percent stake. The developers planned a low density development of 637 stands of half an acre and 15 stands of 6,000-7,000 sq metres.
In October 2012, Kagonye, an official at the Ministry of Lands, allegedly drafted fake offer letters to five cooperatives, with the blessing of Chombo and Murerwa. These were Solomon Mujuru Housing Cooperative, of which Joel is the Patron, with 3,000 members, Shingiriro Housing Cooperative (women’s league), Totonga Housing Cooperative for ex-detainees, Vaduku Forum Housing Cooperative for the youth league and Civil Servants Housing Cooperative with 2,300 members. Kagonye confirmed to The Zimbabwean that she approved the applications filed by the housing cooperatives. “As residents and leader of the constituency in the capacity of aspiring MP, we applied to the Ministry of Lands and received a positive reply. It doesn’t matter whether it was signed by me – I was only an employee,” she said.
Kagonye also confirmed that her construction company, Gloria Properties, was granted the development permit by Chombo. “We are only waiting for a Physical Planning license before we start developing the 5,300 stands,” she said.
“Chombo and Murerwa came twice to Ruwa and told the people that this land was theirs and they should not be worried and I have video clips to prove that,” she added. Efforts to get comment from Chombo and Murerwa were fruitless.
The 5,300 home seekers have contributed $1,1 million – $21 each over 10 months. An anonymous letter written by a disillusioned member of the Mujuru Coop, who claims to be a war collaborator, complains that the self-imposed management committee led by former Ruwa Local Board Chairperson Oswell Gwanzura was diverting funds for personal use.
“The living standards of most of these committee members has dramatically changed overnight, they have bought themselves new cars, while a lot of money is said to have gone towards developing 400 stands and paying bribes to government officials, after it became apparent that it was private property.
The patron is threatening us saying anyone who complains will be in for a high jump, since he is highly connected with top officials,” says the letter.
Gwanzura dismissed the allegations. “Nobody directly handles the money as it is deposited into our Kingdom Bank and ZB Bank accounts and we only keep records. One of the cars was bought for me by my children in South Africa, and the one driven by Mujuru, he inherited it from the late General,” he said.
In a latest development Gwanzura was on Friday picked up by police for questioning. A police source said that after the elections a fierce tug-of-war over the funds had been waged between Gwanzura and Kagonye.
“He was questioned for proof of a developing permit after he allegedly hired a private company to make a 5km road and pegged 400 stands in the wake of misappropriating funds,” said the source.
Gwanzura was not willing to comment but Kagonye said: “The chairpersons of the five housing cooperatives are now refusing to release the development funds. We agreed that theirs was $1 administration fee and $20 was for the developer.”
A Local Board official who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Zimbabwean “This saga is mere politicking. Chombo is aware that Solomio is private land owned by Landela Safaris and ZB Bank. He agreed to the deal in 2008 and our Town Planner is in possession of the approval letters and council resolutions approving the Eton Park development plans. This is contrary to the cooperatives’ plans to subdivide the low density area into medium and high density suburbs against our bylaws,” the source said.
Ironically, Chombo recently told local authorities in the Harare Metropolitan Province, Ruwa included that he was displeased by the mushrooming of illegal settlements in the urban areas. “I would like to express my displeasure on land invasions perpetrated by unscrupulous people who are forming pseudo cooperatives and allocate both municipal and state lands without authority from responsible institutions. I would urge innocent citizens not to willingly submit themselves to the whims and machinations of such extortionate characters,” he said on 26 September.