RESIDENTS from Harare’s Southlea Park have reported senior Local Government ministry officials to police for alleged abuse of office following unclear circumstances surrounding the way Odar Farm was allocated to businessman Phillip Chiyangwa.
By Everson Mushava
The matter concerning the land dispute was reported at Waterfalls Police Station under case number CR 297/07/15.
According to the documents, the residents want the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry permanent secretary George Mlilo, and a principal director in the same ministry, Retired Colonel Joseph Mhakayakora to be arrested for abuse of office.
The police report came after the Local Government ministry entered into an agreement with Chiyangwa in April to give Odar Farm back to Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) that was represented by the businessman.
Although police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba was not picking calls yesterday, the consortium’s chairperson Benny Matenga confirmed the development.
“The residents have reported Mlilo and Mhakayakora to the police in Waterfalls for abuse of office. The case is recorded under CR 297/07/15,” Matenga said yesterday.
Chiyangwa yesterday confirmed that the residents had reported Mlilo to the police and also that they had challenged at the High Court the manner in which his title deeds to the farm were issued, but referred The Standard to the High Court for more details.
He, however, said the residents had already lost the case because he was the original owner of the land and government was simply returning it to him.
“They [consortium] have reported Mlilo and Mhakayakora to the police, but have you ever asked why they have not been picked up,” Chiyangwa queried.
Odar Farm was compulsorily acquired by the government on June 16 2006 under deed of transfer 816/65 when Didymus Mutasa was Lands minister and later given to Odar Housing Development Project— a consortium of 56 companies — to develop a model housing project under government’s Garikai /Hlalani Kuhle programme.
The acquisition was confirmed by an Administrative Court affirmation on December 16 2010 under Case No LA 6065 by Justices Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe and Yunas Ormerjee on September 24 2012 and June 17 2013 under Judgement No SC25/2013.
On January 13 2006 the government entered, through the Ministry of Local Government, into an agreement with Odar for the consortium to establish a housing project.
Under the agreement, government would compensate the previous farm owner, ZTA, for the improvements made on the farm and then receive its money back within 90 days from the consortium’s beneficiaries.
In the formative stages of the housing project, the co-operatives’ meetings were held at the Local Government ministry and were attended by the ministry’s officials.
But despite the existence of these affirmations and the availability of an agreement between the government and Odar Farm, the government entered into another agreement with Chiyangwa on April 9 2015 to give the farm to Sensene Pvt Ltd, a company owned by the businessman.
Chiyangwa had been given the power of attorney by ZTA in an affidavit signed by Andrew Roy Ferreira on January 29 2009, three years after the farm had been acquired by the government.
The agreement between Chiyangwa and the government was signed by Mlilo, but there was no government gazette to delist the farm.
On December 19 2014, Mhakayakora, on behalf of Mlilo, wrote to Pinnacle Properties, a company owned by Chiyangwa, saying the government had resolved to return Odar Farm to Sensene and that the company would directly receive compensation from the beneficiaries of the housing project.
Mlilo was not reachable for comment yesterday, but last week he referred all questions to the ministry’s legal secretary identified as Parenyi who refused to speak, referring the matter back to the permanent secretary.
“Go back to him [Mlilo], all issues to deal with land are dealt with at that level and above. I cannot comment,” Parenyi said last week.
Matenga yesterday said the consortium had approached the High Court seeking cancellation of Chiyangwa’s deed of transfer.
“The deed of transfer issued on 8 July 2015 is dubious. It was issued on the day of the Cabinet reshuffle. We have made an application at the High Court to nullify the deed. Odar is State land allocated to us and was acquired from ZTA, not Sensene.”
The deed of transfer to Sensene (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of Pinnacle Properties — wholly owned by Chiyangwa — was issued two days before Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo left the Local Government ministry.
This was despite Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora writing to Chombo on February 3 2015 advising him that Odar Farm belonged to ZTA at the time of acquisition, and not Sensene which was later given the land free of charge, according to the deed.