THE future of a community primary school in Karoi is bleak after the Minister of State for National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement,
Didymus Mutasa, designated the farm on which the institution is built and allocated it to his personal lawyer, Gerald Nqobile Mlotshwa.
The school, Rydings, catered for over 200 pupils.
Documents in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent reveal that Mutasa on August 18 allocated Rydings of Enthorpe Farm to Mlotshwa under a commercial scheme after his application for land was deemed successful.
Thereafter, Mlotshwa took charge of the school and appointed businessman, Themba Mliswa, as chairman of the board of governors in a letter dated August 30. The letter was delivered to the Ministry of Education on Monday.
Mliswa is Mutasa’s nephew.
The documents reveal that the appointment of Mliswa was done although parents, the school trustees and Association of Trustee Schools chairperson Jameson Timba. They met at an annual general meeting and adopted a new constitution for the school and established a new board of governors chaired by former banker, Richard Chimuka.
This was done in line with the Education Act.
In a petition to President Robert Mugabe dated September 3, the school’s parents’ assembly asked for a rescission of the acquisition of the farm and its allocation to Mlotshwa.
“As parents we are concerned that decades of investment in education and community upliftment will now come to naught,” read the petition signed by more than 110 people. “We are concerned that our children’s education will certainly be disrupted. We are concerned that a school has been acquired by an individual under the guise that it is land for agricultural purposes.”
The parents appealed to Mugabe to “take whatever action you deem appropriate” in order to ensure that the school continues to function for the benefit of pupils and the community.
Other documents in the possession of the Independent reveal that Mlotshwa was between December 5 2006 and June 7 this year the interim chairperson of the school before he was forced to stand down amid allegations of maladministration.
During the time, Mlotshwa, as a director of Nandi Farm, tried but failed to buy the farm for $2,5 billion.
“Further to this matter, we write to formally offer to purchase all of the immovable, movable and fixed assets of Rydings Farm for $2,5 billion subject to the terms and conditions more fully set out in the attached draft agreement of sale and annexures thereto,” read Mlotshwa’s purchase offer dated May 24 this year.
On allegations of impropriety, the lawyer allegedly advanced $107 million to the school in April 2007 to pay for a hired bus and other requirements in Harare.
The following month, Mlotshwa allegedly bought 40 cattle from the school using the money he advanced the educational institution. The cattle were moved to Mliswa’s farm.
On May 24 this year, Mlotshwa allegedly instructed the school bursar to transfer $700 million into his law firm, Antonio & Associates’ Trust Account, which was then invested under a debenture trust agreement between Capital Ventures (Pvt) Ltd and Antonio & Associates.
This resulted in the school experiencing a cash crisis.
However, Mlotshwa returned the money and interest thereon.
In appointing Mliswa, Mlotswa instructed the former rugby coach to prepare a draft constitution, a financial plan, assess dietary requirements and identify children requiring scholarships and other financial assistance.
“In appointing you as chairman of Rydings School, I trust that you share in the company’s vision of creating a first class learning institution subsidised by farming operations,” wrote Mlotshwa. “As a benefactor of government’s land reform programme, my wife and myself feel strongly that we should as individuals, give back to the community, and in doing so, also express our support for government’s endeavours to ensure that education, even in private schools, remains affordable.”