Latest News Editor's Choice

News / National

5 councillors in court over stands corruption

by Staff reporter
30 Mar 2023 at 06:32hrs | Views
FIVE Harare City councillors, all members of the Finance and Development Committee, have been charged with illegally allocating commercial and industrial stands to themselves, at least seven other councillors, batches of senior council officials, a Member of Parliament and unregistered companies.

The five are Costa Mande, who was chairperson of the committee and Ward 14 councillor, Gilbert Thamsanga Hadebe of Ward 39 Dzivaresekwa, Loveness Gomba Ward 36 Kambuzuma, Ian Muteto Makone of Ward 18 Borrowdale and Stanley Manasi Manyenga of Ward 23 Waterfalls.

They are accused of making the land grabs during committee meetings in November and December last year, after setting aside the procedures set up in 2005 when Harare was being run by a commission, which required all allocations of commercial and industrial stands owned by the council to be advertised and tenders sought before allocation.

The five appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court charged with three counts of criminal abuse of duty as public officers.

They were not asked to plead to the charges and were remanded to May 18 on $100 000 bail each. The State led by Mr Pardon Dziva alleges that the five councillors, acting under the auspices of the Finance and Development Committee, decided to unlawfully allocate themselves as members of that committee plus senior council officials commercial or industrial stands under the guise that the applicants for the stands were indigenous people who wanted to do business on leased council land.

They also allegedly claimed that these applicants of the stands had resources to develop the stands at no cost to council.

The court heard that on November 14 last year the Finance and Development Committee chaired by Mande resolved to adopt item 12,14,15,17,18 and 19 of the minutes recommended by Phakhamile Mabhena Moyo, the Harare City Council acting town clerk and Godfrey Kusangaya the acting finance director.

They allegedly resolved to waive part of the Land Alienation Sub Committee Resolution of 26 September 2005 as adopted by the then full Commission of 29 September 2005 which stipulates that all such stands be advertised, inviting tenders before selling, exchanging or leasing and the dealings to be subject to the Urban Councils Act.

According to the State, this waiver, dumping the 2005 rules, allowed the councillors to then go ahead to allocate to those sitting in the same meeting including Mande, Maxwell Dutuma and Happymore Gotora. Dutuma has since appeared in court on similar allegations. When the committee was allocating stands to its own members, the councillor coming up for allocation would briefly excuse themselves from the meeting to allow other councillors to allocate them a commercial stand. The same councillor would then later rejoin the meeting and vote to allocate a stand to the next colleague who stepped out briefly .

It is alleged that the committee went on to recommend the illegal allocation of 29 commercial and industrial stands in several locations to 14 councillors and 14 senior council officials and an MP in locations around Harare.

According to the State, the Local Government Ministry agreed on 18 March 2020 to allow a councillor who does not have a residence within their ward to be allocated a single residential stand once in their lifetime, jumping the queue, but granted no entitlement to preferential treatment for commercial or industrial stands.

If they needed a commercial or industrial stand, they had to join the queue and follow the normal process like any other person.

After the committee set aside the 2005 rules and made the allocations, these still had to go to the full city council, but generally the council accepts that committees have done the detailed work under the council rules and simply rubber stamps the resulting recommendation.

So on November 29 last year, the ordinary council meeting adopted the recommendations made by the Finance and Development Committee to allocate commercial and industrial stands to 11 senior council employees, 12 councillors and a Member of Parliament.

Hadebe, Gomba and Makone allegedly failed to formerly declare their interest to the council meeting as required by the Urban Councils Act. This requires a brief sentence explaining that they are included on the allocation list and so must be excused. Instead, they merely excused themselves without that declaration from the deliberations and allowed colleagues to continue with the allocations.

In another committee meeting on December 14 last year, the Finance and Development Committee acting on a finance report dated December 6 generated by officials Moyo and Kusangaya again recommended ignoring the laid down procedure of advertising and tender, and then recommended the allocation and or lease of 35 industrial and commercial stands in Glaudina to applicants.

Two councillors, Chihoma Runyowa and Gaudencia Marera, and three council employees, Daniel Njanina, Godwin Mutenure and F. Raradza, benefitted.

The recommendations made by the five councillors were adopted and passed unanimously by the ordinary council meeting of 21 December last year. Councillor Marera, who was sitting in the meeting merely excused herself from the meeting and did not declare her interest as required by the Urban Councils Act.

The 14 November committee meeting which allocated stands to committee members also allocated commercial stands to 33 companies although three, Mashilk Publication (Pvt) Ltd, Dep Enterprises and Super Creek (Pvt) Ltd, were not registered with the Registrar of Companies.

The applications should have been analysed and validated by the Principal Estates Officer before any recommendation. Again the council on November 29 rubber stamped the committee recommendations.

 By allocating commercial or industrial stands to these companies, the councillors in the exercise of their duties, acted contrary or inconsistent with their duties as public officers thereby showing favour to the said companies and disfavour to registered companies and individuals seeking commercial or industrial stands.

The November 14 and December 14 committee meetings cut in senior council staff. They recommended the lease of 14 commercial and industrial stands to senior council employees as a "condition of service" for the employees which is outside the committee's mandate. Remuneration and perks of council employees are a mandate of the Human Capital Department, according to the State and the council does not have a policy which allows employees to gain commercial or industrial stands as a condition of service.

Again the November and December council meetings simply rubber stamped these allocations to council staff.

Source - The Herald