BY MOSES MATENGA
FORMER Labour and Social Welfare minister and ex-Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Goromonzi, Petronella Kagonye was yesterday arrested over alleged illegal land dealings.
Kagonye served in both the late former President Robert Mugabe’s government and Emmerson Mnangagwa’s post-2017 coup administration.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed Kagonye’s arrest.
“She was arrested by the police special investigations unit, working with the Special Anti-Corruption Unit over issues related to illegal sales of land in Mashonaland East and Harare,” Nyathi said.
But NewsDay has it on good authority that the charges included the parcelling out of land handed over to co-operatives in Goromonzi as part of Zanu PF campaign strategy during the 2013 elections.
The Glorious Properties proprietor has been fingered in illegal land grabs and parcelling out of State land in 2013 when the ruling party allegedly sought to lure voters to defeat MDC-T, its erstwhile partner in the government of national unity of 2009-2013.
Last year, investigations by our sister publication, The Standard, in collaboration with the Information for Development Trust — a non-profit organisation which supports journalists to report on bad governance and corruption — revealed that Kagonye was among top Zanu PF politicians that set up illegal settlements to woo voters ahead of the 2013 elections.
According to documents at hand, the government handed over Hofmoor Estate (Solomio and Cloverdale B farms 598 0956 hectares) in Goromonzi to five co-operatives run by Zanu PF supporters to coerce their over 7 000 membership to vote for the party.
Among them were the Shingirirai Housing Co-operative that fell under the party’s women’s league, Vaduku Housing Forum for the youths and Totonga Housing Co-operative that benefited war veterans.
Civil servants with ties to Zanu PF also benefited from housing stands under the Low Income Housing Co-operative.
Kagonye was accused by co-operatives of trying to force them to deposit money in her Glorious Properties company account.
In 2013, Kagonye was appointed Transport deputy minister, but was fired in 2014. However, she was later appointed Labour and Social Welfare minister by President Mnangagwa in 2017, but was dropped after the 2018 elections.
Some of the farms that were allegedly illegally acquired by Kagonye were registered in the names of her family members.
A farm in Goromonzi called Glebe Farm, was registered under the name of Stanley Kagonye, Woodley Farm in Melfort was registered under another of her relatives, Johannes Kagonye, Alderley Farm in Arcturus was registered under Austin Kagonye, while another farm called Banana Grove Farm was registered under the name of Isiah Kagonye.
Last year when the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) investigated the land grab, she was accused by Mashonaland East Tobacco Graders director Samson Chauruka of using her political influence to try and grab 40 827 hectares of land owned by the company.
Kagonye’s arrest followed that of another Zanu PF land baron, Fredrick Mabamba, who is allegedly behind a number of illegal land sales in Chitungwiza.
Mabamba is accused of illegal land sales, including grabbing council and State land, which he sold to land seekers in the dormitory town. Mnangagwa has tasked his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga to deal with the chaos and invasion of wetlands. Chiwenga has since declared war on land barons, amid indications that more arrests are imminent.
A land audit report produced by the Tendai Uchena land Commission last December exposed former and current Zanu PF bigwigs, housing co-operatives, real estate agents, senior government officials and war veterans for grabbing and selling of urban land, resulting in multi-billion dollar losses to the State.
“(There was) abuse of political office in the allocation and appropriation of urban State land and use of names of the top ruling party leadership to exert undue influence on government institutions and processes,” the summary of the report read in part.
The ruling Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance, which controls most urban local authorities, have blamed each other for the creation of illegal settlements through land barons.
Suspended Harare mayor Jacob Mafume, however, said it was clear that the ruling party was using populist policies to attract voters during election periods and it was the one that used land for campaigns and should therefore take responsibility for the illegal parcelling out of land by its top officials.
“Like with (the late former President Robert) Mugabe, Zanu PF is blaming others for the chaos that it has created. Everyone knows it formed co-operatives and put people into urban settlements chaotically. There is no co-operative or place named after an MDC member. All co-operatives are named after Zanu PF people like Tongogara and so on,” Mafume said.
As a result of the chaotic illegal land deals, local authorities across the country, especially in Harare, have resorted to demolishing illegal structures some of them built under electricity pylons, on land designated for recreational purposes as well as on wetlands.
Follow Moses on Twitter @mmatenga