Midlands land developers spill the beans

By Brenna Matendere

Private land developers in Midlands province who were allocated State land for resale as residential and commercial stands, paid kickbacks of more than US$5 000 to top government officials, it has been learnt.

This was revealed at the ongoing Land Commission inquiries chaired by Justice Tendai Uchena in Gweru yesterday.

The developers implicated Matilda Manhambo, who worked as the Midlands provincial projects officer in the Ministry of Local Government and has since been suspended on allegations of illegal land deals with the case before the courts.

Directors of Striations World Marketing Property Developers spilled the beans, while giving evidence and said their company, which was given three pieces of land for housing projects, paid US$5 000.

Asked by commissioner Heather Chingono to explain what the money was for, company director Francis Chikwira said they do not know, but just paid.

“Well, soon after getting an offer letter of land, we were so excited and we paid the money,” he said.

The directors were, however, unable to produce receipts for the money amid indications the money went into personal use of Public Works and Construction officers who were responsible for the projects.

However, Danai Machakaire, another director of the company, said the money was for an association of land developers, but failed to explain why the funds were paid in cash and not into a government account.

Revelations were also made during the hearing that land developers paid monthly fees to the same authorities which were not accounted for.

“In your experiences of how government works, had you (directors of the company) seen such a thing happening where money whose purpose is not known is paid into a non-government revenue account?” Justice Uchena asked.

The directors insisted that they only paid the money and were not bothered to ask for the reasons.

The company is accused of conniving with Public Works officials in unprocedurally acquiring State land.

Pressed to disclose who exactly demanded the US$5 000, Striations manager Tagutsva Ruwodo said it was Manhambo.

Meanwhile, River Valley Properties proprietor Smelly Dube, who is facing a slew of allegations of grabbing State land and selling it to unsuspecting home seekers including bribing top officials and media personnel to cover up the alleged scam, is expected to appear before the commission this week. Her lawyers last week failed to have her give evidence in camera.

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