LOCAL Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere yesterday cracked the whip and suspended all the 25 Chitungwiza councillors, including mayor Phillip Mutoti, accusing them of stealing State land and sharing it among themselves, thus prejudicing the local authority of over $7 million.
Kasukuwere announced the decision shortly after meeting with the councillors and senior management, and immediately appointed a three-member caretaker council to run the town’s affairs.
He gave the councillors seven days to respond to the various allegations levelled against them.
‘These allegations include rampant abuse of State land for personal benefit by both councillors and officials, and flagrant disregard of laid-down procedures for estate management,” Kasukuwere said.
The caretaker committee comprises of Civil Protection Unit director Madzudzo Pawadyira, Chitungwiza district administrator Zivai Chisango and a former Zanu PF councillor only identified as Mabhiza.
An internal audit report that reportedly triggered the suspensions indicates that council staff and councillors allocated themselves undeveloped stands they would have identified in the town.
“Consequently, as at 14 February 2016, council was prejudiced of $7 771 112, 88 in revenue as council ended up realising $349 962 from the projected $8 121 074, translating to a paltry 4% payment rate,” read part of the report.
The report listed all councillors who benefited from the alleged illegal land sales with one Charamba Mlambo said to have sold over 46 stands and one Lameck Chibvongodze also illegally selling 32 stands.
Mutoti, according to the report, allegedly sold land worth more $100 000 while Zanu PF national youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga is said to have been given an offer letter for a 2 000-square metre stand worth $16 710 by Chibvongodze although there were no records to prove that the ruling party’s youth leader paid for the land.
The councillors and top management, according to the report, also allocated themselves commercial stands which they allegedly later sold to land barons.
“The syndicate identified potential buyers of stands/land, processed offer letters directly in the names of these buyers, collected such offer letters on their behalf against council policy or in cases where transfer of such land is required, council staff would process cession without any payment made to council. The cartel has thus effectively transformed into real estate agents.”
The move to suspend the entire council came as President Robert Mugabe recently set up a special Cabinet committee to investigate suspected illegal land sales in all urban local authorities.-NewsDay