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Felix Munyaradzi: A land baron’s gripping tale of corruption and jail

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HE has been in and out of jail several times. Sometimes, he would even get VIP treatment in prison, allowed to attend funerals and sleep out at his upmarket Borrowdale West home in Harare.
The man — notorious Harare land baron Felix Munyaradzi — has been as slippery as an eel. Yet he is in jail right now, once again.

OWEN GAGARE
Munyaradzi, facing fresh allegations of US$14 million tax evasion from a whistle-blower who has reported him to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), was arrested this week for allegedly trying to defeat the course of justice in relation to the case of police commissioner Erasmus Makodza whom he reportedly got arrested through the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) using his friend, Eric Chacha, an investigator there.

Chacha has been accused of abuse of office by Makodza, who was arraigned for allegedly helping a girlfriend to lease a police farm. Zacc is conspicuous by its silence over internal allegations of corruption, compromising its integrity and credibility.

A document sent to Zimra, obtained by The NewsHawks, says Munyaradzi made US$79.8 million in deals involving land and car sales, but did not pay tax to Zimra.

In court on Tuesday, Munyaradzi claimed there is a “third force” behind his repeated arrests on criminal charges. He was applying for bail before Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti. Munyaradzi has several pending criminal cases, mostly relating to swindling clients on residential stands from his company Delatfin Investments, a property developer.

The Munyaradzi story involves land corruption on a grand scale. While it has been reported many times in the media, it played out big in mid-2019 during Justice Tendai Uchena’s Commission of Inquiry into Urban State Land since 2005.

The commission heard that senior government officials at the ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing head office in Harare were corruptly involved in land deals with Munyaradzi at housing projects around Mt Hampden, where the government is constructing the new parliament building and intends to establish a new city.

Former Zvimba Rural District Council (ZRDC) chief executive Peter Hlohla spilt the beans on fraudulent allocation and distribution of land in the area when he appeared before the commission at the Chinhoyi University of Technology Hotel in July 2019.

Hlohla, who was contacted by The NewsHawks this week, named principal director for rural authorities Christopher Shumba and principal director of physical planning Ethel Mlalazi, among senior government officials involved in corrupt land deals.

Munyaradzi was at the centre of the land corruption narrative. While Munyaradzi battles for bail, fresh corruption allegations involving failure to pay tax between 2013 and 2018 erupted this week.

“Delatfin Investments (Private) Limited, a duly registered company with the registrar of companies and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, has since 2013 been involved in a well-calculated strategy to evade payment of taxes both Income and VAT taxes,” the document says.

“It operates as a property development company, with its main project being the development of Sandton Residential and Commercial area in Zvimba District.” The project was developed in three phases, as highlighted below:

· Sandton Phase 1: Approximately 1 200 stands, measuring an average of 1 300 square metres each;

· Sandton Phase 2: Approximately 1 500 stands, measuring an average of 1 250 sqm each;

· Sandton Phase 3: Approximately 800 stands measuring an average of 1 250 sqm each;

“Sandton Phase 1 and Phase 2 belongs to Zvimba Rural District Council and the sharing ratios were 60:40 in favour of the developer, while Sandton Phase 3 belongs to ZRP Support Unit. Phase 3 was fraudulently acquired and was not meant for residential development,” the document says. The whistleblower says Delatfin also duped ZRDC by failing to honour the agreed sharing ratios and instead took the whole area without any payment. Even the 10% commonage was never paid for.

“Delatfin sold more than 900 residential stands in exchange for motor vehicles as way of tax evasion. The same vehicles would be used to purchase cattle which are currently kept at a farm in Norton,” the document says.

The motor vehicles were supplied by mainly the following garages/companies:
Panjap Car Sale owned by Brighton Ushendibaba; Hutock Motors owned by Kuziva Zimunya; Chiko; Kudzi; a Mr & Mrs Chadyiwa; Scholar; and Whatmore.

“Other residential stands were sold in exchange for machinery with a company called Elimobile (Private) Limited located in Southerton, others sold in exchange for a going concern Gypsite Electrical (Private) Limited located in Southerton, others sold for going concern known as Mazongororo (Syringe Manufacturing

Company) located in Marondera,” it says.

The actual value of residential stands sold at US$18 per square metre is:
·     Phase 1: US$ 28 080 000

·     Phase 2: US$ 33 750 000

·     Phase 3: US$ 18 000 000

Total: US$ 79 830 000

The document says in 2016, Zimra attempted to garnish the Delatfin CBZ Bank and Stanbic Bank accounts when the tax collector had established non-compliance, amid bribery allegations.

“Delatfin did not honour the agreement, leading to Zimra freezing Delatfin bank accounts in 2017. Munyaradzi moved to register a new company National Earth Moving Company (Private) Limited and instructed all clients to divert payments meant for Delatfin to the new company,” the document says.
“As a result, Zimra was prejudiced of more than US$10 000 000 in Value Added Tax.”

On the land deal, Hlohla said the Zvimba Rural District Council had resolved in 2011 to partner Delatfin to service the land at Haydon Farm before acquiring the property measuring 744 hectares. They then produced a layout plan covering 266 hectares. The other area measuring 295ha was for a jatropha project, while the remainder was reserved for miner Lovemore Kurotwi.

Hlohla said Kurotwi’s land included 70ha for Cornway College and a Diamond Processing Centre which needed 30ha.

Council entered into an agreement with Delatfin, came up with a plan for about 1 000 low-density stands with amenities, two institutional stands, one each for primary and secondary schools. The parties opened a bank account with about US$5 000, but no money was deposited in it thereafter.

Initially, Delatfin was not part of the deal as it did not have equipment. However, the company was imposed by ministry officials. Unsurprisingly, it failed to deliver.

Delatfin had a 60% stake in the partnership, while council had 40%, which included 10% for the commonage. The Delatfin boss failed to fulfill its side of the bargain, but sold the stands and pocket the money. He grabbed 120ha of land that was not part of the project without council approval, leading to a fierce row.

Munyaradzi even seized land on an area reserved for the schools and other social amenities.
Amid all this brazen corruption, the ministry sought to regularise the corrupt allocation involving the 120ha. This came as allegations grew that officials had been bribed with stands and cars. Those involved in trying to regularise the scam included Shumba, Mlalazi, who has now left, and acting deputy director of State Land Department Kristina Koswa Chikotera.

Such has been the story of Harare’s most notorious land baron who flies below the radar most of the time, only making headlines for all the wrong reasons – when arrested and jailed for corrupt deals.

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