AUGUR Investments, an Estonian company with property interests in Zimbabwe, says it has never been involved in dodgy and corrupt deals in the country, but has instead has been a victim of harassment and extortion by some ministers.
After communicating with Augur executive’s Kenneth Sharpe and Michael van Blerk, through a company representative, the Zimbabwe Independent discovered that there were several misrepresentations and factual errors in the story we carried on December 1 2017 headlined: Corrupt deals haunt Chombo. The story pertained to allegations that former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, who was recently granted bail over a litany of corruption charges before being arrested again this week, reportedly used Augur Investments as a conduit to siphon money and prime land from the municipality during construction of the Harare Airport Road between 2008 and 2014.
In the story, we reported that Harvest Net Investments, owned by Chombo, shared the same physical address as Augur at Number 62 Qourn Avenue, Mt Pleasant, Harare.
The story further states that Chombo is reportedly under investigation over the unprocedural construction of Pomona Business Complex by Augur Investments, as well as Bluffhill Development project.
After further checks, we have, however, discovered that Augur has absolutely no relation nor has it had any dealing with Pomona Business Complex and land on which Anjin Investments built their shopping centre Longcheng Plaza development in Harare.
It was established from the company officials by our reporters that Augur and some of its personnel were threatened with deportation by Chombo, also fomer Local Government minister, and have been victims of the abuse of authority and corruption.
They also said another ex-Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, after taking the reins from Chombo, continued with these irregular practices against Augur, a legitimate foreign investor in Zimbabwe. Kasukuwere has a court order against him preventing his illegal seizure and sale of land purchased by Augur through a land barter arrangement in a cabinet-approved contract for works completed by Augur
Augur officials said the following:
- Augur investments has a current Joint Venture company with the City of Harare called Sunshine Developments (Private) Limited. This fully incorporated company is governed by a shareholders’ agreement signed on September 4 2007. This joint venture entailed the development of three land parcels covered in the agreement contributed by the City of Harare and has given rise to Mbudzi People’s Market;
- Augur Investments and the City of Harare entered into a contract for the design, construction and finance of the Airport Highway on May 30 2008.This contract is supported by several addendums where specific parcels of land were committed as payment for works on the highway only after such works were certified by independent design engineers;
- The original payment terms were for the city to meet the 90% of the cost of construction through payments of land after a deposit of 10% in cash had been made. This was later amended again in signed and legal addendums where the cash payment was reduced to 1% of cost of construction with the balance of payments to be made in land scheduled in the addendums;
- This 1% of contract is the only cash funds received from the city or ministry. Hence there could be no abuse of public funds by Augur. The Local Government Ministry supported highway payments with land provided and sanctioned by Cabinet. The Airport Highway project was approved at both Cabinet and Parliamentary levels and endorsed by both the former president of Zimbabwe and ex-premier Morgan Tsvangirai. This contract was later cancelled illegally by Chombo resulting in Augur suffering significant damages for breach of contract by the City of Harare;
- There is no connection between Augur, a foreign company and Harvest Net Enterprises, a Zimbabwean company;
- All Augur Zimbabwean subsidiary companies have official and Reserve Bank approvals;
- The structure of Augur and its subsidiaries has full Reserve Bank authority under the relevant Exchange Control authorities;
- Augur has not received 900 hectares of land. All land payments made to Augur were certified as work completed on the Airport Highway and the land was listed in a contractual land addendum signed as part of the Airport Highway contract as approved by Cabinet prior to commencement of works and are equal in value to the work certified. Augur has received 135 hectares of land against independently certified works on the Airport Highway and within the joint venture company Sunshine Developments;
- Land paid to Augur is registered in special purpose companies holding the land titles as approved by the Reserve Bank. All works completed by Augur have been independently certified by government and city-approved supervising engineers; and
- l Works were certified by the independent supervising engineers, Transport Ministry officials and City of Harare engineers. Works completed by Augur are not US$80 million, but US$20 362 146,81.
The Augur spokesperson went on to say:
“At the risk of repetition, the Airport Highway contract was initiated by the City of Harare who are partners with Augur in a joint venture company, Sunshine Developments. The City of Harare requested Augur to design, build and finance the Airport Road as a barter deal in exchange to be paid in land against certified works in a separate contract outside of Sunshine Developments. This land was scheduled, priced and provided by both City of Harare and Local Government Ministry and approved at ministry, cabinet, president and parliament levels and granted National Project Status.” — Staff Writer.