BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
The trial of former members of a commission that ran Harare City Council between 2006 and 2008, who are jointly charged for corruptly awarding Augur Investments a contract, failed to kick off on Tuesday after defence lawyers were said to be unavailable.
The ex-officials, Sekesai Makwavarara, Michael Mahachi and former town clerk Tendayi Mahachi appeared before magistrate Elijah Makomo, who postponed the matter to April 16 for trial.
Tendayi’s lawyer Wilson Manase was said to be in Chimanimani attending to Cyclone Idai issues.
Allegations are that sometime in 2007, City of Harare planned to construct and upgrade Airport Road and on June 22, 2007, Makwavarara allegedly connived with Tendayi and Michael, who are already in remand in connection with this matter, and corruptly caused the City of Harare to enter into a memorandum of agreement with Augur Investments without following tender procedures.
It is alleged that Makwavarara and her co-accused signed the said memorandum of understanding (MoU) representing the City of Harare, while Augur Investments was represented by Olexander Sheremet.
Makwavarara and Tendayi, who by then was the capital’s town clerk, represented City of Harare.
The State alleges that on September 4, 2007, Makwavarara and her accomplices entered into a shareholders agreement and MoU on May 21, 2008, with Augur Investments, a foreign company purportedly based in Ukraine.
The agreements were for the construction and upgrading of Airport Road at a cost of $80 million.
According to the agreements, Augur Investments was to fund and provide the expertise for the project, whereas the City of Harare was to cede pieces of land to the company.
The project was allegedly divided into four phases and was to be completed in 2010.
The shareholders agreed that the title deeds of the land were to be held in trust by Messrs Coghlan Welsh and Guest pending transfer upon completion and certification of work done.
It, however, later turned out that Augur Investments was not registered in Zimbabwe under the Companies Act and under the Zimbabwe Investment Authority at the time of the agreement.
The company was later registered in 2010 after the lifespan of the alleged contract had expired.
This made the engagement of Augur Investments by the accused persons a violation of the Urban Councils Act, which provides for service providers and tenders by local authority.
Augur Investments did not complete the project due to lack of capacity to handle a project of such magnitude.
The project was later taken over by the government through the Department of Roads and financed by Zimbabwe National Road Administration.
Due to their actions, the State alleges that the City of Harare was prejudiced of $80 million, being the value of land measuring 107 572 hectares, which was transferred to Augur Investments.