BY RICHARD MUPONDE
GOVERNMENT has blocked controversial tycoon Billy Rautenbach from evicting thousands of Zanu PF supporters he accuses of illegally settling on his land in Harare’s Aspindale area.
Harare Metropolitan Affairs minister Oliver Chidawu told a recent meeting that the planned evictions would be politically suicidal as it could alienate the ruling party from a vital support base ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The messy wrangle pits Rautenbach’s company, Marimba Residential Properties, against five housing co-operatives — Joshua Nkomo, Leopold Takawira, Wadzanai, Mydek and Dzapasi — which took possession of the vast property described as Number 48 Aspindale Park Township of subdivision A of Aspindale Park of subdivision A of Lochinvar measuring over 100 hectares.
Information obtained by NewsDay Weekender yesterday indicates that Rautenbach, who has ever since been spiritedly trying and failing to evict the co-operatives, had roped in Chidawu to help him reclaim the land.
A meeting was held at Chidawu’s offices on Monday to bring finality to the matter.
However, according to leaked minutes, the meeting ended in deadlock after Chidawu objected to the tycoon’s push for eviction.
The minister, the minutes show, told Rautenbach that it was politically suicidal for government to evict party supporters ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
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“He mentioned that the land was inaccessible due to the houses that have been built by the co-operatives. He added that evicting the residents appeared inevitable, but he cited that the move appeared politically wrong as it would be viewed as the Zanu PF government fighting Zanu PF supporters in view of the forthcoming year 2003 harmonised plebiscite,” the minutes read.
According to the minutes, Chidawu also indicated that he had exhausted options in his efforts to try to assist Rautenbach, whom he reportedly described as “a personal friend”.
“He highlighted this could be the last meeting with him in trying to address the issue. He explained that he had already used his influence to manipulate the police service to further the business tycoon’s cause and his metropolitan province had now gotten tired,” the minutes show.
According to the minutes, Chidawu then pleaded with Rautenbach to reduce the purchase price of the disputed land from US$85 per square metre to US$50 per square metre to allow the occupants to purchase the land, but the latter shot down the proposal.
“Minister Chidawu pleaded with him to reduce the purchase price of the land in dispute from US$85 per square metre to US$50 square metre. That way, the minister promised that he would use his office to influence the people to accept the new pegged prices and a concession would be inevitable,” the minutes read.
Still, Rautenbach refused to budge, revealing that he was, instead, considering increasing the purchase price to US$125 per square metre after the promulgation of the Statutory Instrument 127, though which government ordered companies to strictly adhere to the prevailing official exchange rate when doing local transactions.
The minutes added: “Rautenbach mentioned that if he sells the land at US$50, he would be bankrupt. He added that he would be left with no resources to develop infrastructure on the said land. He suggested an option to buy all constructed houses owned by those residents not forthcoming coming to his cause and get them relocated elsewhere. He identified ringleaders like Benedict Nyenyeza aka Mapiravana and Shadreck Majoni (Joshua Mqabuko Co-operative treasurer) among others who would be evicted in order to bring about obedience among the residents.”
Rautenbach is also on record having said he would not compromise on the purchase price, but would rather build a state-of-the-art Marimba Police Station and donate to government a modernised school within the property, among other corporate social responsibilities.
The decision to block the eviction could, on the other hand, prove costly since Rautenbach is widely regarded as a Zanu PF benefactor who regularly funds its programmes, including conferences and election campaigns.
Although the opposition MDC Alliance enjoys unassailable dominance in Harare, Zanu PF retains pockets of support in the capital.
The party got over 300 000 votes in the July 2018 presidential election, which helped its candidate, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, to claim a wafer-thin victory over the MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa.Follow Richard on Twitter @muponderichard