PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangangwa’s son, Kudakwashe David Mnangagwa, is part of the directors of a company that has invaded a wetland in Harare’s Belvedere area and started a multi-million housing project without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Investigations carried out with support from Information for Development Trust, (IDT) a non-profit media organisation supporting independent investigative journalism, also revealed that the project has proceeded without a development certificate from the Environment Management Agency (EMA) and the Harare City Council.
The company, Brickstone Builder’s Contractors operating as Brickstone Housing Project reportedly intends to establish over 200 upmarket housing units on the site, which was declared 100 percent wetland by EMA according to a report seen by this publication.
The planned housing project sits on an estimated 11 hectares.
The directors are likely to raking in, in excess of US$5 million as the stands which average 600 square metres are being sold at prices ranging from US$35 to US$ 45 per square metre, investigations estabished.
According to the report Brickstone Housing Project applied for a prospect for a housing development from EMA early this year but it was turned down and it was barred from doing any civil works on the land.
However the company has defied EMA and in May it went on to open roads, leading to an outcry from Belvedere residents and enviromental activists.
This publication had to carry out an investigation into the matter and search for the directors of the company after being tipped by concerned residents about the conflict
The particulars of the company directors, according to the documents seen by this publication revealed that one of the directors is Kudakwashe Mnangangwa, a son to President Mnangagwa.
The documents show that the company was founded by little-known MacKenzie Macheka and Chester Macheka on July 16 in 1998.
Kudakwashe and three others, Spencer Macheka, a relative of the founders, and two Zanu PF activists identified as Lilian Chitanda and Enison Hwingiri—who is the company secretary—were incorporated on the same day on July 20, 2021.
This means that Kudakwashe was roped in well after the formation of the company.
Even though information of his practice is scant, Kudakwashe describes himself on his LinkedIn account as a lawyer who has “gained extensive knowledge from studying (law) around the world”, the USA, UK and Zimbabwe included.
But other online accounts indicate that he holds a BSc in Business Administration obtained from Drake University in Iowa, USA.
He is the executive director of a company called Flame Lily Venture Capital, which, according to his LinkedIn account, is “a private equity investment and advisory form primarily focused on investing in financial services, mining, real estate and construction within Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa region”.
A Harare lawyer, Farai Chauke, once alleged to a Chiredzi magistrate that Kudakwashe was involved in wildlife poaching in the Nyangambe area in the Save valley conservancy.
Kudakwashe, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the president and has been pictured with other Mnangagwa siblings before, is from a mother whose identity could not be immediately established.
He is neither son to Auxillia, the first lady, nor Mnangagwa’s late first wife, Jane Matarise who was cousin to Josiah Tongogara, the commander of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) but died in a mysterious car crash in Mozambique upon his return from Lancaster House talks in the UK that declared a ceasefire between black freedom fighters and the Rhodesian government.
The Architect Magazine says Kudakwashe built a luxurious house in an unnamed part of Harare this year (2022) and a picture accompanying the brief listing shows massive opulence of the property.
The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Professor Paul Mavima also appointed him to the National Building Society Board.
Kudakwashe has tried his hand in politics after he submitted his curriculum vitae to contest for a top post at the Zanu PF youth national conference held four months ago but he failed to make it.
Last year, he was involved in a guardianship wrangle with the mother of his child, Al-Marie Iris Hall, in the High Court and he was awarded custody.
The High Court ruled that fathers of children born out of wedlock must also enjoy equal access to their children and play a role in their upkeep.
The ruling followed an appeal by Hall, who challenged the decision by a magistrates’ court to award custody of the child to Kudakwashe.
According to the EMA report which accompanied a ticket and prohibition order, Brickstone Housing Project applied for a prospect for housing development on February 28 this year (2022).
The environmental agency turned it down on March 14, basing its rejection on ecological assessments of the land which had been done in January prior to the application which designated the land as 100 percent, a wetland.
However, Kudakwashe’s company defied EMA and commenced road works, and this prompted EMA to raid the site on May 20.
The company was fined ZWL$500 000 and slapped with an order that prohibited Brickstone from further operations on the site.
“On the 20th of May 2022, an EIA inspection was conducted in Belvedere in response to a complaint that development was occurring on a wetland adjacent to HIT (Harare Institute of Technology). (Our) team…inspected the affected site,” reads the prohibition order.
“Upon inspection, the team established that Brickstone Housing Project submitted a prospect for a housing development on February 28 2022. Comments rejecting the project were sent on March 14 2022 based on an ecological assessment that was conducted on January 23 which indicated that the area is 100 percent wetland.
“The site had been cleared of the vegetation for the purpose of constructing roads. A ticket was issued of level 14 for doing a prescribed project without an EIA and an order was given to stop all activities in the area,” states the order.
EMA said if the developer continued to defy the environment protection order, a docket would be opened for court proceedings.
“The Agency would like to urge all developers to consult EMA before any development takes place. The National Wetland Policy and National Wetland Guidelines give guidance to how wetlands are utilised.
“The National Development Strategy (NDS 1) clearly states that there should be sustainable utilisation of wetlands and encourages implementation of soft projects such as recreational parks. So what is happening is uncalled for and is wanton breakdown of the law (sic),” it said.
But the City of Harare claimed it was not aware of the project and the Brickstone directors.
It denied sanctioning the project and indicated that it would investigate the project.
“The city did not allocate the land in question and the policy on wetlands is clear, it does not allow development on wetlands. The City applies to EMA for an EIA certificate. If it’s true, what the company is doing is illegal and it should stop forthwith. The law is very clear about wetlands and they (the company) should follow due process or the long arm of the law will catch up with them,” the municipality said in a statement.
Harare Wetlands Trust director, Celestino Chari, said Brickstone should have a valid EIA certificate to carry out developments in the area as stipulated by the law.
“The company should have a valid EIA certificate and a development permit from council and anything outside that is illegal and council should apply the necessary legislation to repossess the land and reclaim it,” Chari said.
Given the widespread invasion of wetlands by project developers throughout the country, Chari suggested the establishment of environmental courts to prosecute offenders.
“We have over 25 cases in the courts over illegal developments in wetlands and we created a watchdog and a network of residents and community-based groups to oversee illegal developments in the city,” he said
“We are also lobbying for the review of the wetlands guidelines and the review of the EMA Act so that it responds to the current trends. We are also lobbying government to create a fund to compensate people settled in wetlands.” He added.
A visit to the sight revealed that Brickstone was pegging out residential stands, constructing roads and putting up elementary structures on the site.
Some of the residential stands are sited directly under power pylons, posing a risk to prospective home owners. The stands are located in swampy areas.
The workforce on the ground was hostile and did not entertain questions, repeatedly directing the news crew to “Mudhara”, a local reference to “boss”, who they did not name.
Efforts to get a comment from the Macheka siblings and Hwingwiri hit a snag as their numbers were continuously unavailable.
Kudakwashe and Chitanda, the company secretary, were not answering calls.
A research by HWT released in October 2021 showed that Harare wetlands are dwindling mainly due to housing developments.
Sections 97 and 113 of the Environmental Management Act require an EIA certificate for any infrastructural development on wetlands.
To get the certificate, an EIA consultant prepares a prospectus and a report which assess the environmental impact of the proposed project and must consult with affected stakeholders.
The land must be designated according to use, and one also needs a development permit from the council under the Regional Town and Country Planning Act.
The Zimbabwean constitution provides for rights to water and a healthy environment for present and future generations in Sections 73 and 77.