via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Massive land scandal uncovered 03 August 2014
A massive land scandal in which President Robert Mugabe’s name was deceitfully used and thousands of villagers left on the verge of eviction has been unearthed in rural Matabeleland North.
The scam, if reversed, would see desperate home-seekers losing their hard-earned cash.
Information gathered by The Zimbabwe Mail shows that at least 6 000 home seekers from Harare and Victoria Falls had lost an unquantified sum of money buying residential stands from shadowy developer, GR Mugabe Housing Union, also known as Gushungo, in Ndlovu village, 30km from Victoria Falls, under Chief Mvuthu.
The scandal has left villagers in the area seething with anger after a subcontracted “surveyor” pegged all over their homesteads, fields and graves, and threatened them with eviction.
Villagers claimed the surveyor threatened to exhume graves, put them in bags for them to rebury, wherever they deemed fit.
Unidentified Hwange Lukosi Rural District Council employees and locals have also been accused of working in cahoots with owners of the G R Mugabe Housing Union in illegally
parceling out land and evicting villagers in return for shares in the union.
The villagers said there was a fast track plan to parcel out land to the more than 6 000 home seekers who have become impatient and were demanding their stands after paying undisclosed sums.
More than 60 families, with an average of eight members, are facing eviction to an unknown destination despite having been ‘dumped’ in a thick forest infested by tsetse flies and dangerous animals in 1955 by the Rhodesian regime after they were displaced from Masvingo, Gweru, Matopo and Gwanda.
Speaking to The Zimbabwe Mail, one of the beneficiaries said they had been paying varying installments for the stands since 2000, but were not told how much in total they were supposed to pay for the stands.
The union was reportedly formed in 2004 ,with claims that it was under the leadership of one of Mugabe’s relatives, but was later hijacked by a group of former liberation war fighters.
“Since 2004, I have been paying varying amounts from $20 to $150, and have now since paid $350. There are some influential people who have paid for as much as four stands,” one of the beneficiaries said. “We heard the union is now owned by some war veterans, but we understand they also split. Now, the prominent leader of the union is (Michael) Mambudzi.”
Hwange East Member of Parliament Bekithemba Mpofu said he had been side-lined with regards to the land scam developments as a legislator for the area, and he suspected foul play in view of the manner in which the project was being rushed.
“Council and these Gushungo people have not been consulting me on any development. I have been suspecting foul play in the speed that these people are doing their things. They have pegged and graded the whole village without even informing me,” Mpofu claimed.
“Council has not gone to advertise the acquisition of land, and has not gone to tender to obtain contracts from interested companies. No auditors have been hired to scrutinise how public funds were used by both council and also the land developer to verify how people’s money was used in the project.”
Thousands of prospective land owners from Hwange, Victoria Falls and as far as Harare converged at Ndlovu village where they were given ‘offer letters’ early this week. Matabeleland North provincial administrator Latiso Dlamini reportedly ‘blessed’ the event.
However, Provincial Affairs minister Cain Mathema reportedly snubbed the event. Dlamini was not immediately available for comment yesterday.
When The Zimbabwe Mail called Mambudzi disguised as a member of the union, he played down the problems surrounding his project, arguing the organisation was legitimate.
“Do not worry about people, they will always talk. This organisation is genuine and don’t worry about eight or nine people because we are more than a 1 000, so come tomorrow (Thursday) and get your stand number at the site,” he said.
Yesterday, in a telephone interview, Mambudzi declined to speak to this newspaper.
“I cannot talk to a reporter that I don’t know. I have no comment,” he said curtly.
Efforts to obtain meaningful comments from Lukosi Rural District Council chief executive officer, a Ncube, on two occasions were fruitless as he was evasive, directing this reporter to send all questions in writing through the post office.
“I can’t comment on that, I am busy in a meeting right now, send all questions in writing to Box 165 Hwange” he said.
Matabeleland North police Chief Superintendent Jairos Chione declined to comment on the issue, referring all questions to the council.
The organisation has been facing legitimacy challenges since breakaway groups have been formed, all reportedly using the same name, while a former member, Hillary Ngulube, is also fighting for land development rights at Ndlovu.
Last year, one of the members of the organisation, Siduduzile Zengeni, who is the daughter of former Hwange Senator, Grace Dube, was given a two year sentence for embezzling more than $8 000 from the organisation.