A CORRUPTION report has been filed against former Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora in connection with a messy land dispute, in which he allegedly allocated 359 hectares of land in Beatrice to a senior ministry official.
Mombeshora is entangled in a land dispute with the Manyame Rural District Council (RDC), which is accusing him of grabbing its land and allocating it to his subordinate in an alleged abuse of office case.
Official documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent indicate that the Manyame RDC applied for permission to develop the land, which encompasses Gilstone and Kimcote farms in Beatrice for the establishment of a rural service centre comprising 600 peri-urban housing units and a shopping centre in 2010. Some of the land was earmarked for social amenities like churches, a school and a clinic. Bureaucratic bungling held up progress until March 2015, when former Mashonaland East provincial affairs minister Joel Biggie Matiza recommended that Manyame RDC be allocated the piece of land.
Mombeshora rejected the recommendation on the basis that the concerned land was reserved for the expansion of Harare and Chitungwiza, only for him to allegedly allocate it to the Lands Housing Trust chaired by his ministry’s then principal director, Morris Dakarai, in December of that year.
Official documents show that Matiza, in his capacity as the provincial lands committee chairperson for Mashonaland East, on June 2, 2015 gave Manyame RDC permission to develop the land, despite the fact that Mombeshora had, on March 5, 2014 objected to the Manyame RDC’s application.
As per procedure, the application was handled by Mashonaland East provincial chief lands officer Wilfred Motsi, who wrote to the then Ministry of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement recommending that Manyame RDC be allocated the land.
However, officials from Mombeshora’s ministry turned up in 2016 to claim the land, arguing that it had been allocated to them.Under the country’s land acquisition laws, the Lands Ministry administers all state land and is mandated to transfer any piece of state land directly to local authorities or the Local Government Ministry for development.
Provincial Lands Committees (PLCs), which comprise a provincial lands officer, provincial administrator and a traditional leader, also have power to allocate land, but subject to approval by the Ministry of Lands.
“As a province, we do not have any objection to the said rural service centre. The development of the rural service centre will go a long way to improve revenue generation for both the local authority and government,” the letter Motsi wrote on May 11, 2011, addressed to the permanent secretary in the ministry, reads.
The letter was not responded to for two years, prompting Motsi to write to Mombeshora when he became Lands minister in 2013. The letter, dated November 2, 2013, repeated the same recommendations made in May 2011.
Mombeshora then wrote back to the Manyame RDC on March 5, 2014, arguing that the two farms were “a buffer to absorb the imminent expansion of Harare and Chitungwiza” and therefore were unsuitable for the development of a rural service centre.
“It would not make administrative sense to establish a rural service centre on these farms in the face of such an eventuality. In view of the above, my ministry believes your council could instead focus on expanding Beatrice as a growth point,” he wrote.
But the Manyame RDC persisted with the matter, with council chairperson Naison Mudzara subsequently writing to Matiza after he was appointed Mashonaland East provincial affairs minister in March 2015.
“Manyame Rural District Council is seriously concerned with the implications of the Minister (Mombeshora)’s response to plans of council and the attainment of our targets for the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset). As a council, we are supposed to contribute to the successful implementation of the country’s economic blueprint and the establishment of the rural service centre is one way by which we can make our contribution. The resettled farmers in Gilston and surrounding areas need services in the form of schools, clinics, markets and other social facilities critically lacking in the area,” Mudzara’s letter reads.
“We are kindly requesting for your assistance in engaging the minister of lands over the issue. Council has the capacity to develop the land once authority is granted.”
Matiza responded to the letter by granting Manyame RDC full custody of the land and permission to proceed with its development project.
Matiza’s letter reads: “As the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Mashonaland East, together with the provincial lands committee, I have granted Manyame Rural District Council permission to initiate development at Gilstone in Beatrice, and commence the process required to establish a rural service centre. Manyame RDC is also hereby granted full custody of the infrastructure at Gilstone.”
Acting on the strength of Matiza’s letter, the Manyame RDC then developed the land. The local authority also drew up a plan which it submitted to the Department of Physical Planning, which falls under the Local Government Ministry.
The ministry reportedly approved the plan subject to certain alterations it had recommended. The council then effected the changes and re-submitted it to the Department of Physical Planning for final assessment.
At the time, it had already commenced developments such as paving of roads and general pegging. Council also set aside 200 residential stands for youths.
However, in September 2016, Mombeshora’s subordinates in the ministry visited the area and did their own pegging.
Curiously, however, the trust is housed within the ministry’s complex and uses a similar address.A group of youths who were supposed to benefit from the establishment of the rural service centre this week wrote to the special anti-corruption unit in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office asking for a probe to be opened against Mombeshora.
“We do hereby write to your office requesting that you investigate a case of abuse of office by former minister Dr D Mombeshora and Mr Dakarai. It baffles us how the same ministry shot down its earlier arguments in denying the council the same piece of land and handed it to a private developer.
The trust is housed in in the same office as the ministry of lands. We are strongly appealing to your office to immediately cause the arrest of both Dr Mombeshora and Mr Dakarai for abuse of office and fraudulent acquisition of state land,” the letter to the unit, headed by former prosecutor Thabani Mpofu, reads.