Local

2 Chitungwiza managers, 3 MDC-A Councillors arrested over stands scam

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  • A 200-square-metre residential stand would be sold for US$4 000 but the councillors and managers paid a miserly ZW$4 611,50 in local currency for each stand to the local authority.

POLICE have arrested two Chitungwiza Municipality top managers and three MDC Alliance Councillors over a residential land scam in which they sold council stands in US dollars then paying the council in local currency at roughly 1-1 and pocketing a huge difference.

A charge sheet gleaned by this publication shows that the scam took place between last year and early this year and the suspects took advantage of the exchange rate which was climbing up to pocket a huge difference.

A 200-square-metre residential stand would be sold for US$4 000 but the councillors and managers paid a miserly ZW$4 611,50 in local currency for each stand to the local authority.

Calculations show that council could have been prejudiced of over US$8 million in potential revenue as the US $ : ZW $ exchange rate shot up from around 1:10 last year June to a peak of 1:100 this year June.

The three councillors and two officials formally arrested are: Peter Matiringe Cllr for Ward 10, Richard Chimutsa (Ward 5), Chengetai Nyagondo (Ward 14), David Duma (engineering manager) and Munyaradzi Chizanga (acting finance director).

The arrested five officials were among the 33 Chitungwiza Municipality councillors and officials picked up for questioning during a meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Authorities said they convened the meeting in contravention of the Urban Councils Act as they sought to replace the acting town clerk after she blocked offer 2000 offer letters and leases related to the residential stands under investigation.

The rationale of replacing an Acting town clerk – who only has three weeks left in office before a substantive town clerk takes over – also raised dust.

The other 27 were released by police after being questioned.

The meeting was called by a group of MDC-A councillors who have been selling residential stands using backdated offer letters for alleged personal gain.

The meeting was being chaired by Councilllor Matiringe as both mayor Lovemore Maiko and his deputy Musa Makweza have pending criminal abuse of office charges that restrict them from interfering with witnesses at the council offices.

Acting Town Clerk Mrs Evangelista Machona had on Monday rescinded more than 2 000 offer letters dating back to last year and blocked the issuing of leases, a move prompted by ongoing investigations into their validity.

That in turn caused the group to move swiftly to replace her as acting town clerk with Engineer David Duma. Since everyone was or would be acting, the group figured all that was required was a simple council resolution.

The alleged scam that Mrs Machona blocked was the sale of stands last year, or this year with backdated offer letters, for US dollars with the organising councillors then paying the council in local currency at roughly 1-1 and pocketing the huge difference generated by new exchange rates.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said investigations were still in progress. The five were “assisting police with investigations for criminal abuse of office and violating the Urban Councils Act”, he said.

Mrs Machona yesterday confirmed that she had instructed the blocking of signing of leases.

“It is true that l gave an instruction during a management meeting that 2019 stands allocation are under investigation and for the time being we should stop signing leases until the verification process has been finished,” she said. ■

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