CONFLICT of interest has arisen in the seven-member Commission of Inquiry into the sale of State land in and around urban areas since 2005 as it emerged that one of the commissioners is husband to a principal director in the department of State land.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Andrew Mlalazi, one of the seven commissioners appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in December last year to probe how State land apportioned to local authorities was sold and used, is a town planner by profession and is married to Ethel Mlalazi, principal director responsible for State land.
Sources said although the commission was noble and much was needed to deal with land barons who had mushroomed across the country, prejudicing vulnerable home seekers, Mlalazi’s inclusion jeopardised the Justice Tendai Uchena-led commission as he could be conflicted.
“The wife was instrumental in the allocation of land to most people and developers and the husband now is set to probe all those issues, could we expect a fair decision? How will he deal with incidences were the wife is found to be wrong? Definitely he should recuse himself on such matters,” a senior Local Government official said.
However, Mlalazi said although the commissioner was her husband, those who appointed him were aware of her post in the ministry which has been responsible for allocation of State land to various stakeholders.
“Yes, Andrew is my husband and he is a town planner by profession. I believe those who put him there were aware that he is my husband and knew well of my position in the ministry. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Who is really talking about the issue of conflict of interest?” Mlalazi said.
The team is currently in Mutare probing how State land was allocated to mostly Zanu PF-connected people and what projects they were undertaking.
According to the terms of reference set out for the commission, it ought to conduct visitations where necessary, summon witnesses, record proceedings, minute testimonies and document, consider and manage all information gathered in order to arrive at appropriate findings and recommendations to the President on how State land in urban areas has been used.
The appointment of the Commission, which was first mooted by former President Robert Mugabe and followed through by Mnangagwa, follows the mushrooming of illegal settlements in most urban areas, most of which were established from the illegal sale of State land by land barons.
This has led to demolition of houses in the past prejudicing ordinary people of their hard-earned money.
Most of the settlements do not have water and sewer reticulation and other infrastructure such as roads, electricity, schools and clinics.
Other members of the commission include Stephen Chakaipa, Tarisai Mutangi, Heather Chingono, Vimbai Nyemba and Petronella Musarurwa. The permanent secretary in the Justice ministry, Virginia Mabhiza is secretary to the commission.
Nyemba is also a member of the commission set up to investigate violence which broke out in Harare on August 1, 2018 and led to the killing of seven people by the military. She is also the chairperson of the Procurement Authority of Zimbabwe.