Commission says self-exiled former minister should be investigated over land deals

By ZBC Reporter

SELF-EXILED former Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandiitawepi Chimene, should be investigated on allegations of selling state land at the 120-hectare Fairholme Farm in Mutasa Rural District among other charges.

The recommendation was made by the Commission of Inquiry into the sale of state land around urban areas since 2005. The commission recently presented its report to President Emmerson Mnangagwa who vowed to bring to book land barons who duped home-seekers.

Chimene who is cited with many others  has also been accused of selling the land without signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Local Government.

She also stands accused of selling land before fully servicing it and abusing her office ‘then’ in securing the allocation of farm and change of use letter of permissions through ministry officials.

According to the report, one Tonderai George Bandure is accused of abusing his office by issuing the letter of support in the allocation of the farm to Atonstar, a company belonging to Chimene and one Patience Mabota.

The Commission’s report indicates that Chimene was allocated Fairholme Farm under the Model A2 Scheme in 2003, in 2016. She however, applied to the Mutasa rural District Council for change of use of the farm from agricultural to residential.

It is reported the application was granted in March 2016 and the farm was surrendered to the Ministry of Local Government by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement.

“A layout plan was prepared by Savanna Land Developers which had entered into an agreement with Atonstar Investments to develop the land,” reads the report.

“The Department of Physical Planning (DPP) approved the layout plan on the 120 hectares of land which would create, 469 residential stands, 16 commercial stands, a flat, school, church, police post and other critical buildings housing much-needed service providers for any developing residential area in September 2016.

Chimene’s Atonstar company through its agent Simple Ventures began selling residential stands pegged at US$20 per square meter while the prerequisites for buying the land meant, home seekers would pay a deposit of US$2 000 and the balance would be paid in instalments ranging from US$150 to US$260 per month.

The land was being sold despite the fact that there was limited infrastructural development in terms of roads, water, electricity and sewer systems.

“The developer merely opened roads which are neither gravelled or tarred, there is no water reticulation and the developer is still engaging Mutare City Council to provide water and there are no electrical connections,” alleges the report.

However, 114 residential stands had already been sold by the time of the inquiry with one occupant and several invaders already living on the land regardless of the development shortcomings.

The residents have long since resorted to buying water and using blair toilets posing health hazards.

In recommendations, the Ministry of Local Government has been urged to take immediate control of the farm and ensure priority is given to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other credible institutions who provide education at reasonable costs.

For an MOU to be immediately entered into between Ministry of Local Government and Atonstar to enable it to monitor compliance at Fairholme Farm.

Atonstar and Simple Ventures have also been called to account for funds they collected from purchasers and lastly, that the farm be incorporated into the Mutare municipal boundary.