The City of Harare is on Thursday expected to make a crucial decision. They are going to decide on how to deal with the matter of alleged massive land theft involving two influential members of society, wealthy businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa and controversial minister of government Ignatius Chombo.
The issue has taken too long to resolve and residents of Harare have a right to know the truth.
In a nutshell, council accuses Chombo and Chiyangwa of fraudulently acquiring large swaths of prime land in the capital, with the assistance of “corrupt” council officials.
They have compiled a 54-page dossier which they claim carries evidence of the alleged land loot.
Chiyangwa agrees he owns a lot of land in the city, but says he acquired it in a transparent manner.
Chombo too says his hands are squeaky-clean.
He said in a recent interview with NewsDay that he had in fact “over-followed procedure” in acquiring his properties.
Chiyangwa took the councillors that compiled the dossier to court, accusing them of criminal defamation.
Two weeks ago the flamboyant businessman suddenly withdrew the case citing changed circumstances.
He was warned in court that if he withdrew the case, he would not be able to bring it back again and he said his decision was final.
He said he had made the decision on his own volition, that he was not pushed.
He said: “Your Worship, these charges arose quite sometime and since then, there have been changed circumstances and accordingly, I have considered withdrawing the charge. . . I am doing this voluntarily and out of free will.”
The Mayor of Harare, Muchadeyi Masunda, who was being arraigned in court together with his councillors, immediately welcomed Chiyangwa’s gesture and reciprocated by calling for a ceasefire from his councillors.
“Let bygones be bygones,” he said.
The councillors have refused to withdraw their case against Chiyangwa and have openly told the Mayor they will not be bound by his gesture of reconciliation because those were his “private thoughts or views”.
They insisted Chiyangwa and Chombo committed a crime by unlawfully acquiring council land and as such, the mayor had no mandate to “shift the position adopted by elected councillors”.
“Neither yourself, your worship, nor the elected councillors, have the luxury of pardoning those accused of criminal conduct with respect to council property. . . the land does not belong to yourself, the councillors or any individuals,” the councillors said.
The mayor has since said the councillors had misinterpreted his “bygones” remarks and that he had never meant to say Chiyangwa and Chombo should be let off the hook.
Nothing would be swept under the carpet and there would be no sacred cows, Masunda assured.
The mayor has made known his position regarding next Thursday’s meeting.
He says he will suggest to council that a team of independent individuals, including retired lawyers and judges be put in place to preside over the investigations.
The councillors’ dossier, he said, would form part of the material that the investigations would refer to, but any other contributions from anywhere, were welcome.
We agree with the mayor on this point, the councillors who are obviously angry and have evidently a bone to chew with Chiyangwa and Chombo, cannot be managers of this probe. They would be ‘approaching the investigations with dirty hands’, so to say.
This matter is of great concern to the residents of Harare because the land in question is so big it could change the life of the city, it runs into many millions of dollars in value. It is only fair that the people be put in the clear over the matter and it is important that those that stand accused are given the opportunity to clear their names.