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Govt tightens screws on urban councils

BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA/GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA GOVERNMENT has tightened screws on all urban councils, demanding information on all residential stands acquired by councillors as it moves to unearth land scandals. In a letter dated July 27 and directed to all urban councils, Local Government permanent secretary Zvinechimwe Churu ordered all urban councils to provide information on residential and commercial stands involving councillors to the Local Government minister July Moyo and provincial development co-ordinators. “In light of the numerous recent cases reported on and uncovered by investigations, each council is hereby required to submit the following documents to the ministry by August 4 — a printout from the estates account of all persons paying for land acquired from council, a list of all stands ie residential, commercial, industrial with the following information (the name of the councillor and his/her ward, the size of the stand and the price, whether the councillor is still in possession of the stand, if the stand has been sold or ceded, the name of the new stand owner, the status of payment for the stand, the level of development that has occurred on the stand)” the letter read. A number of councillors particularly in Harare have been implicated in massive stands scandals with mayor Herbert Gomba currently out on $10 000 bail for alleged dubious allocation of stands. The fraudulent allocation of stands has cost local authorities millions of dollars with councillors reportedly pocketing large sums of money from illegal land sales. Although corruption involving stands is rampant in most councils throughout the country, government is allegedly targeting MDC Alliance-run councils which it accuses of financing the party heavyweights’ fancy lifestyles, sponsoring subversion as well as setting aside a war chest for the 2023 elections through illicit deals. “We also require a list of all infills created since the swearing in of councillors and the beneficiaries of the stands created, and a list of stands available in the council land bank,” Churu added. Some urban councillors are reportedly illegally parcelling out infills without approval from council and pocketing the proceeds. In Marondera, thousands of people were made to pay US$1 500 to council in 2015 on the pretext that they would be allocated land at Elmswood Farm, but are yet to get the residential stands despite the local authority acknowledging receipt of the money.

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