The wrangle over ownership of Southlea Park’s Odar Farm between Harare businessman Phillip Chiyangwa and Odar Housing Development Consortium has taken a new twist, with the Lands ministry distancing itself from the dispute.
This is despite the same ministry reportedly writing a letter to support the processing of title deeds to Sensene Pvt Ltd, a company owned by Chiyangwa on April 1 2015.
The ministry now says the farm was listed for urban development and therefore fell under the Local Government ministry. This position by the ministry comes as the case in which odar Consortium is challenging Chiyangwa’s deed of transfer at the High Court unfolds.
The Lands ministry is cited as the third respondent in the case, while Sensene and the Local Government ministry are cited as second and first respondents respectively.
“The piece of land in issue is wholly administered by the first respondent and not third respondent, accordingly,
its use and ownership rights are not under the administration and control of the respondent,”Grace Tsitsi Mutandiro, a director of acquisition in the Lands ministry said in her notice of opposition.
The affidavit HC6625/15 is dated July 29. But on April 1, in a letter to Chenayi Garise-nheta, the ministry’s registrar of deeds on behalf of the secretary for Lands and rural resettlement said the ministry had no objection in the delisting of odar and restoring it to its former owners.
Zimbabwe tobacco Association (ZTA) was the owner of the farm at the time it was compulsorily acquired by government in January 2006 under deed of transfer 816/65 and given to Odar Housing Development Project— a consortium of 56 companies— to develop a model housing project under government’s Garikai /Hlalani Kuhle programme.
In the 2006 agreement, government undertook to process title deeds for the consortium and never to allocate the land to anyone else. The acquisition was confirmed by an Administrative Court affirmation on December 16 2010 under Case no LA 6065 and Justices Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe and Yunas Ormerjee’s judgement on June 17 2013.
Chiyangwa, however, secured a title deed for the land on July 8 following two agreements he entered into with the Local Government ministry in February and April. the businessman was given the power of attorney by ZtA in an affidavit signed by Andrew Roy Ferreira on January 29 2009.
The title deed gave Chiyangwa power to directly demand compensation from beneficiaries of odar farm despite the January 2006 agreement between the consortium and government.
Southlea Park residents have also reported Local Government permanent secretary George Mlilo and a principal director in the same ministry, retired Colonel Joseph Mhakayakora to the police for alleged abuse of office emanating from the manner in which they handled the land wrangle in favour of Chiyangwa.
Mlilo and Mhakayakora approved the “return” of Odar Farm to Sensene, despite Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora writing to Chombo on February 3 this year advising him that at the time of acquisition by government, Odar Farm belonged to ZTA and not to Sensene