Selling Wetlands Gets Harare Official Arrested
5 December 2023
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Harare City Council Official Faces Court Charges for Alleged Selling Wetlands

By Dorrothy Moyo | Former Harare City Council valuer and estates manager, Emmanuel Mutambirwa, found himself in court over the weekend, accused of facilitating the irregular sale of a wetland to a Chinese company. The charges stem from allegations that Mutambirwa failed to adhere to the correct procedures during the land transaction.

Representing the State, Hosiah Abraham Chisango, the Town Clerk for the City of Harare, lodged the complaint against Mutambirwa. The State contends that between 2017 and 2019, Mutambirwa, in his official capacity, neglected to follow the required processes outlined in the Urban Council’s Act and the City of Harare’s standard operating procedures for city valuation and estate management.

According to the allegations, Mutambirwa’s duties included advertising the intention to lease or sell land, allowing for public objections as mandated by Section 152 of the Urban Council’s Act. The established procedure involves seeking council resolution after recommendations from the head of valuation and estates management to the finance director.

In the case at hand, Vifot Investments (Private) Limited, a Chinese-owned company, applied for land for recreational development in May 2019. Mutambirwa purportedly recommended selling stand 40072 Borrowdale West, measuring 23.9684 hectares in a wetland behind Dandaro, to Vifot Investments without obtaining the necessary council resolution.

The court heard that Mutambirwa instructed the then acting finance director, Stanley Ndemera, to proceed with the sale, sidestepping the required council approval process. Vifot Investments reportedly paid a staggering $91,679,130 for the land.

The irregularities extended to the involvement of then acting mayor Stewart Mutizwa, who allegedly directly engaged officials to expedite the land deal without adhering to the stipulated procedures.

The controversy came to light when stakeholders and the Borrowdale community raised concerns about significant excavation and trenching in the wetland. The matter was reported to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), leading to investigations that ultimately resulted in Mutambirwa’s arrest.

As the case unfolds, it underscores the importance of transparency and adherence to legal procedures in land transactions, with the accused facing charges related to the improper sale of a vital wetland area.