EIGHT Harare City councillors were yesterday arrested at the behest of businessman Phillip Chiyangwa who was named in a land scandal by a special council committee.The councillors, who make up the committee that investigated the sale of land in Harare between 2004 and last year, were arrested for criminally defaming the opulent businessman. They allegedly leaked the probe report to the media.
The eight councillors — committee chairperson Warship Dumba, Casper Takura, Herbert Gomba, Thomas Musharurwa Muzuva, Musa Macheza, Job Mbadzi, Paula Macharangwanda and Panganai Charumbira — spent the day at Harare Central police station where warned and cautioned statements were recorded.
Harare lawyers Selby Hwacha and Alec Muchadehama, representing the councillors, confirmed the arrests last night, while police spokesperson Andrew Phiri professed ignorance on the matter.
Harare mayor Muchadei Masunda, who said he was aware of the arrests, was also supposed to have his statement recorded yesterday, but was in Triangle.
“We have been arrested for criminal defamation and the complainant is Chiyangwa,” Dumba told the Zimbabwe Independent from the police station. “I was first taken in yesterday (Wednesday) together with councillor Casper Takura and was released after being asked questions. Today (Thursday) the whole committee that compiled the report is here and the police are taking warned and cautioned statements and fingerprints.”
Muchadehama said his clients were denying the charges against them.
“They (councillors) are also denying the charges saying they were not responsible for the leakage of the report and that apart from that the report contained fair comments which are of public interest,” Muchadehama said. “They are also saying that Chiyangwa is trying to prevent his own arrest and that the issue has become politically motivated as it is harassment of MDC councillors by Zanu PF.”
Earlier media reports said Chiyangwa made a report at Borrowdale Police Station last week saying allegations that he acquired vast tracks of land in Harare without following proper council procedures were false.