BOGUS estate agents are on the prowl fleecing desperate land seekers as demand for residential stands surges, while some village heads are allegedly selling state land, prejudicing the government of millions of United States dollars in revenue.
Cases involving defrauding of land seekers have been on the increase in the past five years amid calls for the government to craft watertight laws to govern land sales.
Recently, three Harare men allegedly tried to swindle a land developer of close to US$500 000.
The accused Mafusire Gilbert, Ashish Dinker Patel and Richard Mudhanda allegedly tried to sell a commercial stand which did not belong to them to realtor Aaron Kumanja in May this year.
The trio has since been arraigned before the Harare magistrates’ court.
“Sometime in May 2022, I saw an advert to the effect that the accused persons were selling a commercial stand along Simon Mazorodze in Harare. I contacted the third accused person Mudhanda whom I met up with at Jiri Law Chambers,” Kumanja said in court documents.
“I asked for the paperwork of the stand and I was only issued with photocopied documents of the purported file and I suspected that the accused persons might be fraudsters,” the complainant added.
The accused wanted US$420 000 from Kumanja, but the stand was valued at US$850 000.
“The accused person’s lawyer drafted the agreement of sale and we signed,” said Kumanja.
Upon further investigation, Kumanja discovered that the stand belonged to Joshua Chimhanda. The police were alerted, leading to the arrest of the suspected fraudsters.
This happened barely a fortnight after Kadoma home-seeker, Hazel Mhlanga fell victim to a bogus estate agent. Land scammers in most instances use forged documents.
The Kadoma-based Tamburai Zezere is accused of allegedly defrauding home seekers using a company called Taxbrook Trading Pvt Ltd, trading as Taxbrook Land Developers.
Taxbrook owner, Trevor Kandukutu, dismissed any links with Zezere saying they have never received money for a stand from him.
There is also ongoing vicious land dispute in Budiriro between land developer Fifty Angels Company and one Hebert Senda, popularly known as Madzibaba Enock accused of name-dropping President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The land under dispute is at number 2254 which forms the remainder of Gleneagles Farm in Budiriro 4.
Harare City Council recently got a provisional court order which Senda did not recognise while name-dropping President Mnangagwa in the process.
Fifty Angels Company also recently got a court order cementing their custodianship of the land which had already been sold to some land seekers. That means there are people likely going to lose money.
On the other hand the government is being prejudiced of millions of United States dollars by a syndicate comprising village heads and officials within various rural district councils (RDCs) across the country involved in illegal sale of state land especially in peri-urban areas.
An investigation by the Independent unearthed that village heads have gone to the extent of advertising state land in various social media platforms.
According to the local government statutes, village heads have a mandate to allocate land to land seekers in consultation with RDCs where after getting the land, an individual is then included in the village head’s registry.
It has since been discovered that village heads and RDC officials have taken advantage of the existing legislation to sell state land that is ordinarily supposed to be given for free.
This has been prevalent in areas close to Harare like Seke, Domboshava, Mazowe, Norton, Juru, Goromonzi and Murewa. Masvingo, Gweru, Chegutu, Chinhoyi and Kadoma are some of the affected areas.
There are WhatsApp and Facebook groups that have since been created for the selling of the stands. Stands on sale vary from 300 square metres to three hectares and the price ranges from US$1 500 to US$5 000 depending on the size of the stand.
There has been a sudden spike in demand for peri-urban residential stands because they are more affordable and village heads together with RDC officials have been making a killing.
According to the National Housing ministry, close to 35 000 residents have benefitted from the peri-urban land settlements.
It is estimated that desperate land seekers have been fleeced of over US$25 million yearly with village heads and rural district councils buying latest vehicles and homes in Harare.
Efforts to get a comment from National Housing minister Daniel Garwe were fruitless.