BY BRENNA MATENDERE
THE trial of former Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Jason Machaya, who is facing abuse of office charges, kicked off at the Gweru Magistrates’ Court on Monday after several false starts since 2017.
Prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema told the court that in December 2017, Machaya and his co-accused Chibhururu Chisinyerwa, who is a former Midlands physical planning officer, unlawfully took 1 000 residential stands in Gokwe town that had been allocated to the Local Government ministry as commonage and gave them to a private land developer, Striations World Marketing Company.
The company then allegedly sold the stands to home-seekers, with the accused pocketing the proceeds.
Striations World Marketing Company belongs to former Zanu PF Midlands provincial administrator Francis Chikwira, who held that position during the time of the alleged offence, while Machaya was the ruling party’s provincial chairperson.
The accused, through their defence lawyer Aleck Muchadehama, denied the charges and sought to be acquitted at the close of the State case.
But the State’s first witness, Kristina Koswa Chikotera (40), who is acting deputy director in the Department of State Land Management, insisted that the top government officials had acted contrary to their duties as public officers.
She told the court that the stands deal was meant to deprive the government and personally benefit the accused.
Chikotera also said that Gokwe Town Council was pressured by Machaya to approve a layout plan that had been designed by Chisinyerwa in order to formalise the land grab.
“The stands were allocated at an area known as Mupfungautsi Extension, which had been laid out by second accused as the then provincial physical planning officer. It was not above board and it constitutes a crime,” she said.
The witness also highlighted that the former minister had no right to distribute stands to anyone.
She told the court that the stands were sold for $3 900 each and the money was converted to personal use by the accused.
Provincial magistrate Charity Maphosa postponed the trial to March 20 for continuation.