LOCAL Government minister July Moyo’s staggering US$155 million Chiredzi land deal — stinking to high heaven in the lowveld — for his cronies has now fully exploded as residents and Members of Parliament up the ante in the explosive issue which underlines rampant corruption in local authorities involving senior municipal and political bigwigs.
This comes after Chiredzi residents had initially made appeals to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government to stop Moyo and his associates from parcelling out land for the town’s expansion and to investigate the corrupt land deal.
While the uproar intensifies, the entity Moyo gave the contentious land to, Full Life Open Arms Africa Investments, is now selling it unserviced residential stands at US$20.61 per square metre. Given the land size of 750 hectares and that 1 hectare is 10 000 square metres, this means sold in full the land cost US$155 million.
The development has infuriated Chiredzi residents, who in November 2022 petitioned Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, urging Parliament to investigate the minister’s abuse of power as well as establish the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the land.
Residents say officials from the two local authorities are afraid to challenge the minister over the murky parcelling out of the land.
Zanu PF’s Chiredzi West legislator Farai Musikavanhu this week told The NewsHawks that the project lacks transparency.
Full Life Open Arms Africa Investments (FLOAAI) was in 2018 given the mandate to develop 750 hectares of land meant for Chiredzi town expansion. The allocation was done within a few days when Chiredzi Town Council and Chiredzi Rural District Council were being run by special commissions appointed by Moyo after the 2018 elections. At the time, Zimbabweans were anxiously awaiting the results of an electoral petition by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa at the Supreme Court.
The land in Buffalo Range Extension, north of Chiredzi town, was under the jurisdiction of Chiredzi RDC and the two local authorities signed a memorandum of agreement to jointly develop the area, which is meant to be Chiredzi’s new town.
Residents and stakeholders raised a red flag a few weeks ago after the developer, FLOAAI, started selling unserviced stands at US$20.61 per square metre.
According to a petition presented to Parliament and signed by four members of Chiredzi
Residents and Ratepayers Association (CHRRA), FLOAAI was handpicked by Moyo without following public procurement procedures.
The petition further said the developer is a land baron who is set to prejudice the two Chiredzi local authorities of a substantial amount of money since he is now selling unserviced stands without paying a cent to the local councils.
Residents also say they were not consulted when the land was grabbed. They also complained that an environmental impact assessment was also not carried out.
“Your petitioners Jonathan Shonhiwa, Emmanuel Marimba, Lucky Mupungu and Lyold Sithole having consulted residents and other key stakeholders respectfully are worried about the high level of corruption on 750ha of land in Buffalo Range area allocated to both Chiredzi Town Council and Chiredzi Rural District Council for development on a joint venture based on percentage sharing,” the petition to Parliament reads.
“Now therefore, your petitioners beseech the Parliament of Zimbabwe to exercise its constitutional role and address the issues which are of public concern. It is alleged that Minister July Moyo handpicked a developer for the 750h in Buffalo Range area in Chiredzi without following proper legal tender procedure and allowing both councils to advertise.
The developer who does not have any history of works in other towns has not paid any cent to the two local authorities but is now selling unserviced stands prejudicing the two councils.
“. . . The minister of Local Government abused his powers, to back and award the developer, without the two local authorities, hence the local authorities are in fear to whistleblow the wrong doings.”
Chiredzi Residents and Ratepayers Association (CHRRA) chairperson Jonathan Shonhiwa told The NewsHawks that members of his association are deeply concerned about the level of corruption involved in the development of Chiredzi’s new town. He said it is a shame to note that high-level office bearers are involved in awarding a job of that magnitude to a developer without using a competitive tender procedure.
“As CHRRA we are worried about the selection procedure of unsolicited bidding instead of competitive tender procedure since it involves a lot of money to develop the 750 hectares. They did this with the influence of officials from the ministry of Local Government and Public Works, since the hand-picked developer, Full Life Open Arms Africa Investment, had proved that he has no money and capacity to develop the area.
He is now selling 1 700 undeveloped stands at US$20.61 per square metre against the agreement signed between the developer and councils,” said Shonhiwa.
FLOAAI chief executive officer Godfree Nelson Madanyaya was evasive when The NewsHawks reached him for comment.
“I am one of the happiest people in this world. How can l help you and what do you want to hear from me?” said Madanyaya, before he abruptly terminated the call.
Chiredzi Rural District Council chief executive officer Ailes Baloyi said there is an agreement between the joint venture and the developer for him to develop 350 hectares and the remainder will be developed at a later stage.
He said councils will benefit from the sale of stands as well as shortening their ballooning waiting lists.
Acting Chiredzi Town Council secretary Wesley Kauma told The NewsHawks the misunderstanding over the project was caused by former town secretary Charles Muchatukwa, who is now late, as he acted on behalf of council without consulting councillors and town management.
He said the developer was selling un-serviced stands to recoup his costs which he used for the feasibility studies and necessary surveys.
“Yes, there is confusion regarding this project and it is true that information about it is not public. The agreement is that the developer should recoup his costs through selling stands. Our councils are the ones which approached the minister and he gave us the idea of bringing in the developer of which all other developers were not willing to take up the job due to magnitude of the area and this developer took that risk,” said Kauma.
Chiredzi West legislator Farai Musikavanhu told The NewsHawks that the project lacks transparency.
He said the land should be recovered “from dirty dealers”, adding all stakeholders must be involved in the process.