Magaya bags murky council deal

CHITUNGWIZA Town Council has succumbed to pressure from government and launched its controversial master plan crafting deal with funding from a company linked to church leader Walter Magaya.

CHITUNGWIZA Town Council has succumbed to pressure from government and launched its controversial master plan crafting deal with funding from a company linked to church leader Walter Magaya.

Council sealed the deal with Magaya’s company known as Westmer Investment despite resistance by residents, who have since approached the High Court seeking an interdict to stop the pact.

The deal comes after Local Government and Public Works minister Daniel Garwe was accused of arm-twisting Chitungwiza town councillors to approve Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries Church leader Magaya’s bid to manage the dormitory town’s operations in exchange for large swathes of land.

NewsDay understands that Garwe recently summoned the councillors to his office and ordered them to support Magaya’s controversial land deal.

Magaya is allegedly making moves to take over management of the town through his company.

Acting town clerk Japson Nemuseso yesterday announced that council had started the process of preparing a master plan after engaging Westmer Investment as its financier.

“The council is going to hold master plan consultative meetings in the community very soon. Please welcome our team for the master plan which will be in recognisable bibs. We are going to work 24/7 to meet the June 30 deadline and we are confident of doing so,” he said in a statement.

“The preparation of Chitungwiza’s master plan has a council resolution which was passed on the 463rd ordinary council meeting held on March 13, 2020 Resolution number 14.

“Two stakeholder consultation meetings were then held on August 30 and 31, 2022 at Margolis Resort and September 22 the same year at Aquatic Complex with the assistance of the Harare Metropolitan provincial office.”

Garwe last week reportedly summoned Chitungwiza mayor Rosaria Mangoma and some councillors after they opposed the deal stating that its conditions were not favourable.

The case has spilled to the High Court, with residents seeking an interdict to stop the deal.

In a High Court application dated May 2, 2024, the Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) is seeking to prevent Westmer Investments from implementing the project, arguing that it amounts to takeover of the town. The residents allege that Westmer Investments in April this year submitted a proposed memorandum of agreement to prepare and fund the town’s master plan.

In the proposed agreement, the PHD Ministries leader’s company pledged to turn Chitungwiza into a “smart city”.

According to an affidavit filed by Alice Kuvheya, a trustee at Chitrest, the municipality rejected the proposal due to the conditions outlined in the memorandum of agreement, which were deemed unfavourable to the municipality.

“All 33 councillors unanimously declined the donation, citing the inclusion of unfavourable conditions as the primary reason for their decision,” she said.

“I wish to record that despite the afore-mentioned circumstances, the respondent persisted in carrying out developments within Chitungwiza without adhering to the necessary procedures or obtaining approval from Chitungwiza Municipality.

“This includes the respondent’s active involvement in the Jonasi Aquifer Project, which was undertaken without following the appropriate processes and without seeking approval from Chitungwiza Municipality.”

Kuvheya argued that allowing Westmer Investment to continue with the project posed a significant risk of irreparable harm to the Chitungwiza community, including environmental damage, disruption of existing infrastructure and potential violation of local regulations.

“As a result, an interdict or injunction to halt the respondent’s activities until proper procedures and approvals are obtained is crucial to safeguard the community’s interests and prevent irreparable harm,” she said.

In an interview early this week, Kuvheya said Garwe was threatening to suspend the councillors and appoint a commission if they reject Magaya’s plan.

“We are still waiting to hear what our lawyers are saying because we already have an interdict which has not been heard in the High Court,” she said.

“However, the minister is now threatening our councillors that if they do not sign the Magaya deal, he is going to suspend them and replace them with a commission. So right now our councillors are at loggerheads.”

Kuvheya said several councillors, including the mayor, had met with Magaya, where they were reportedly ordered to sign the deal.

“We had about six councillors, including the mayor. They were recently seen with Magaya at his Yadah Hotel and they also met him at night at his head office,” she said.

“They also met him with the minister where they were told that they have to sign his deal. So, now they are all, including our town clerk, receiving threats that they should sign Magaya’s deal without following procedures. That’s the worst thing. So I am waiting for our lawyers so that we can see the next step we can take.”

Council spokesperson Tafadzwa Kachiko, however, dismissed the allegations saying nothing was untoward about the mayor and councillors regularly meeting with the Local Government minister for guidance.

“This was just one of the routine visits we have been doing before. Even during the time of former minister Winston Chitando, we could visit the ministry to be guided,” he said.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Garwe asked NewsDay to first seek clearance from his ministry before he could respond to the allegations.

Magaya has been accused of trying to buy the whole of Chitungwiza through his project, which continues to face resistance from residents.

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