HomeLocal NewsAugur Investments dismisses land theft scandal

Augur Investments dismisses land theft scandal

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

LAND developer Kenneth Raydon Sharpe’s Augur Investments has dismissed allegations of misappropriation of council land in its  response to the High Court challenging its mention in a land dispute.

Augur Investments filed a response to the application by MDC Alliance legislator Norman Markham, who cornered Mnangagwa to explain the land deal with Sharpe. He said it must be reversed so that the desperate homeless benefit.

Augur Investments OU was cited as the first respondent in the application while other respondents, from 2nd to 9th included Sharpe, Tatiana Aleshina, Michael John Van Blerk, City of Harare, Local Government minister July Moyo, Doorex Properties Pvt Ltd, the Registrar of Deeds and Mnangagwa.

Through an affidavit by Aleshina representing Augur Investments, they said there was no need for the complainants to include them as individuals in company related matters.

“I further depose to this affidavit on behalf of Augur Investments whom I have been associated with by the applicants. It is not clear and readily apparent what the cause of action against myself, Sharpe and Blerk have been cited in this matter. This is so more particularly in that Sharpe is merely described as a ‘serious land baron’ who owns extensive land in Zimbabwe through the medium of Augur Investments. It is not competent for a person to own land through the medium of a company,” Aleshina said in her affidavit.

“The company owns land in its own name as a separate legal entity. There is no valid legal basis shown why Sharpe is being cited in an action against Augur which is a company and a separate legal persona. On my own part, I am simply said to be ‘a shareholder in the 1st respondent as well as in the satellite operations of the 2nd respondent.’  It is bad at law to cite an individual in an action against a company merely because they are a shareholder in the company.

“Even assuming a cause of action had been shown against me, it would be still incompetent to cite me in a supposed action against Sharpe merely by virtue of my association with him. I am a separate legal persona from him,” she added.

Aleshina said the citation of Blerk is even more ridiculous.

“He is cited merely because he is said to be an employee of Sharpe, a natural person and again a separate legal persona. In the circumstances of my citation as well as that of Sharpe and Blerk being improper and bad at law, the application as against us ought to be struck off with costs on an attorney and client scale on that basis alone,” she said.

Court papers filed on March 10 show that after a series of litigations between the City of Harare and Augur Investments, a Deed of Settlement was executed  in May 2019.  Court papers show that  Herbert Gomba, the then mayor of Harare, signed for the local authority.

“There is in existence a council resolution and minutes authorising Herbert Gomba and Josiah Chisango to sign the deed of settlement. The minister had authority to execute the deed of settlement. There is nothing in the deed that offends public policy as alleged,” Aleshina said.

The Deed of Settlement was reached after the City of Harare won several cases against Augur but  the company went for arbitration where Justice November Mutshiya ordered that Augur be compensated for the airport project.  The city council appealed and won again at the High Court.

This prompted Augur to approach the Supreme Court but they withdrew the case and a Deed of Settlement was signed.

“Stand 654 Pomona Township was tendered as part of payment to Augur Investments in clear recognition that it had done work which it was entitled to payment for. Council authority and the necessary approvals were obtained. Stand 654 Township was valued at US$20 million,” Aleshina said.

Markham, Tavonga Savings Scheme and Pikicha argue that the Deed of Settlement is not only illegal but a clear case of “theft” of prime council land.

They want an order “setting aside the transfer of the property covered in the Deed of Settlement to the 7th respondent (Doorex Properties) being a certain 273,2 hectares of land called Stand 654 Pomona Township”.

The applicants also want the original agreement between the City of Harare and Augur for the development of the Harare Airport Road declared null and void on the basis that besides the “illegal signatures” on the Deed of Settlement, they allege the deal did not go through tender and did not comply with Zimbabwe’s Investment laws. They allege that, in any case, the deal conditions were never fulfilled.

In response to the application by the trio, Aleshina told the High Court that Stand 654 Pomona Township, which is registered in the name of Doorex Properties has since been subdivided into 1 120 individual stands.

She said several clients of Doorex Properties have bought stands from the subdivided property and will suffer serious financial prejudice if ownership of that land is interfered by the relief sought in this matter.

“They clearly have an interest in the outcome of these proceedings yet they have not been cited.  The suit in this matter has been brought against Augur Investments OU which is described as a company duly registered according to the laws of Ukraine and which is said to be trading and operating extensively in Zimbabwe while, on the contrary, the company is not the said company registered in Ukraine but a different company altogether registered in Mauritius. The applicants have thus proceeded against a wrong party. The first respondent on whom the application was served was thus wrongly cited,”Aleshina submitted.

She said Markham has not demonstrated that he has a real and substantial interest in this matter as his founding affidavit does not show that the land is in his constituency.

“With regards to the 2nd applicant, it is disputed that it is a common law universitas or that it is a member of the said Homeless People’s Federation. Without proof of registration and a register of members, the number of members alluded to by 2nd applicant is pure speculation and is a product of wild imagination.”

Aleshina said the third applicant, Jacob Pikicha describes himself as an unemployed housing land activist who is homeless or a squatter.

“He is both landless and jobless. His prospects of buying land in an area like Borrowdale are virtually nil. He has no real and substantial interest in the present litigation.  The rules require that leave of the court be obtained for the issue of any civil process which may be sued out against the President but no such leave was sought or obtained by applicants despite citing Mnangagwa,”Aleshina’s affidavit reveals.

She also denied being Ukrainian but Russian and denied allegations that Sharpe is a fugitive.

“There are no pending criminal proceedings against him to substantiate this libelous false accusation. There is no court order calling for his incarceration. The law enforcement agents in this country are not even looking for him,” Aleshina submitted.

She said she prays that her affidavit succeeds and that Markham’s application is dismissed.

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