The Sunday News
Lincoln Towindo, Harare Bureau
THE commission of inquiry into the sale of State land will this week submit its findings from six of the country’s 10 provinces to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while alleged cases of fraud and corruption have since been referred to police for actioning.
The seven-member Justice Tendai Uchena-led commission was set up in February 2018 to investigate the sale of Government-owned land in urban areas since 2005. So far, the commission has covered Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Bulawayo, Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces.
Secretary to the commission Mrs Virginia Mabhiza told our Harare Bureau that the probe has uncovered potentially explosive cases of fraud, corruption and unjust benefit by some land barons who are now being investigated by police.
The commission, she said, also established that there was rampant flouting of urban development laws and regulations.
“The commission is ready to present reports from six provinces to His Excellency, the President, next week (this week) after the Heroes and Defence Forces holidays,” said Mrs Mabhiza.
“The reports will cover the commission’s work in Mashonaland East, Matabeleland South and North, Manicaland, Masvingo and Bulawayo metropolitan province.
The reports will inform the President of the commission’s findings in terms of its terms of reference.
The exercise has been fairly challenging, having faced some resistance from some corrupt elements, particularly those with assumed political clout in the provinces.”
Public hearings in Mashonaland West province will be concluded this week. Inquiries in Harare, Midlands and Mashonaland Central provinces remain outstanding. The Justice Uchena commission is expected to finish its work by year-end.
Some of the alleged land barons whose cases are before the courts include ex-Zanu-PF Youth League commissar Innocent Hamandishe, whose name features prominently in land scams around the Caledonia area.
The commissar has already been taken to court twice in the Midlands province.
“Currently, the commission is doing its work in Mashonaland West and the public hearings will conclude next week (this week).
“The biggest challenges we have seen that are in the reports have to do with murky land allocations, illegal distribution of State land and there are also cases of fraud in some cases, where members of the public are forced to pay endless development levies.
“We were also charged with unearthing land barons and the flouting of urban development rules and regulations. There is also the procedural aspect where we sought to establish whether the relevant laws for urban development were complied with.
“We have also discovered cases where there are reasonable grounds of fraud and we have reported these cases to the police,” she said.
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that the commission and the police were working together, with the latter having seconded senior police officers to the commission’s secretariat.
“There is constant engagement between police and the commission and where action has to be taken members of the public will be informed through the media. I can confirm that there is close collaboration between the police and the commission and when there are developments such as arrests we will inform the public.”
He, however, refused to give details of cases under active investigation or those that have been investigated.
In December, the commission’s chief investigator Superintendent Godfree Muza said police had arrested 75 alleged land barons.
Supt Muza’s list of criminal cases features prominent names like Innocent Hamandishe, who is facing five cases of land-related criminal cases at Caledonia Farm.
Also on the list is former Zanu-PF youth leader Mubuso Chinguno, who faces allegations of swindling home-seekers in Chipinge.
The barons face charges including theft of trust property, receiving money from co-operative members and converting it to personal use and selling non-existent stands.
Other members of the commission are Mr Andrew Mlalazi, Mr Stephen Chakaipa, Dr Tarisai Mutangi, Dr Heather Chingono, Ms Vimbai Nyemba and Ms Petronella Musarurwa.
The commission’s terms of references are: (i) “To investigate and identify all State land in and around urban areas that was acquired and allocated to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing for urban development since 2005; (ii) To investigate and ascertain the status of such land in terms of ownership, occupation and development; (iii) to investigate methods of acquisition and/or allocation by current occupants and owners of such land; and (iv) To investigate and ascertain the actors involved in allocations, occupation and use of such land.”