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Massive Harare land wrangle heats up

A land scandal spawning from the controversial Airport Road construction project has ensnared several key institutions in the country amid charges that the sheriff of the High Court was involved in the transfer of ownership of a property without following proper procedures.

A local company that was subcontracted by businessman Ken Sharpe’s Augur Investments to construct the road linking the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport with Harare’s central business district has brought back the spotlight to the scandal ridden project after it approached the High Court.  

In the new court battle, Fairclot Investments, trading as Trucking and Construction Pvt Ltd, is demanding the nullification of a deed of settlement between Harare City Council, Local Government ministry and Augur Investments, which it says shields Sharpe’s firm from prosecution over the land deals.

Fairclot was subcontracted by Sharpe’s Augur Investments to construct the Airport Road before the construction company terminated the deal because of a payment dispute.

Following an agreement made on March 26, 2013, Fairclot constructed 2.7km of the road on behalf of Augur, which was controversially awarded the contract on May 30, 2008, without going to tender.

Under the agreement, Augur was supposed to construct the Airport Road with an understanding that 90% of the costs would be paid in the form of the land and 10% in cash.

The title deeds for the land that was identified for the deal were supposed to be kept by a private law firm until council approved the road project.

Augur went on to subcontracted Fairclot, which stopped work on the road after doing 2.7km due to non-payment.

The dispute was temporarily solved after “Augur pledged as security, stand 654, Pomona Township measuring 273 299 hectares of state land.

It has since emerged that Fairclot separately sued the sheriff of the High Court of Zimbabwe McDuff Madega for allowing the transfer of the Pomona property that was surrendered to him as security for the deal with Augur before Sharpe paid his dues.

It wants the court to declare the handover of stand number 654 Pomona Township to Augur null and void.

The company wants the property to be placed under judicial management.  

“Any and all transfers of title affected in respect of stand 654 Pomona Township registered under Deed of Grant No. 2884/10 by and in favour of any person between the date of upliftment by second respondent (Madeka) to the date of this order are hereby cancelled,” part of the application filed on May 20, 2020, read.

The matter was heard by former judge Justice Faith Mushore who reserved judgement until she was fired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa early this month over “gross misconduct.”

The matter is likely to be given to another judge for determination.

Fairclot wants Madeka, who was arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission in June and is facing 19 charges of criminal abuse of office and illegal sale of stands, to advertise the sale of the property within 10 days of the order.

Fairclot director, Grant Tilling Rusell, argued that the decision to hand the property back to Augur was unprocedural as the company had not fulfilled the conditions of their Airport Road deal.

Augur insists that it settled its dues to Fairclot that were in local currency after government regulations in 2019 put the US and Zimbabwe dollar exchange rates at par.

Simbarashe Kadye, on behalf of Augur, argued that: “Notwithstanding the position of the law, the first respondent has instructed the second respondent to execute the liability, which by terms of the law was given the value of RTGS dollars at the rate of one-to-one with the United States dollars, to be executed in the United States dollars.

“The instruction by the first respondent to execute the said liability in United States Dollars is contrary to the position of the law.

“This is premised on the fact that by operation of the law, the said liability was deemed to be in RTGS dollars,” Kadye said.

Harare North MP Norman Markham and property developer George Katsimberis are also challenging the deed of settlement that left Sharpe and his companies owning vast tracts of land in the capital.

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