Gweru mayor caught up in land ‘scam’
Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
GWERU Mayor, Councilor Josiah Makombe allegedly bought a 7 341 square metre stand for slightly over $11 000, an amount described by Government as “sub economic”.
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works said the stand is in a reserved area and acquisition by Clr Makombe without change of land use contravened Section 49 (3) of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12).
After buying the stand which is listed as “the remainder of Umsungwe Block”, Clr Makombe allegedly then sought Ministerial approval for change of ownership, a process which Gweru Council ought to have started with.
This is according to a letter dated August 3 in possession of this publication which has a list of charges being levelled against Clr Makombe by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works July Moyo.
Clr Makombe is supposed to respond to the allegations levelled against him, stating reasons why he should not be suspended as Ward 2 councillor and mayor of Gweru.
Minister Moyo said Clr Makombe was allegedly involved in corrupt activities when he allowed the sale of the stand at a sub-economic price while also knowing that it was in a reserved area.
“You allowed the sale of a 7341 square metre stand in the remainder of 17 Umsungwe block to yourself in May 2020 for a sub-economic price of $11 141,20 and in a reserved area, contravening section 49 (3) of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12) which states that notwithstanding an operative master plan or local plan or an approved scheme or the terms of any permit or any approval issued interns of part III, IV, or V of the repealed Act, the Minister may authorise the use of any reserved land for a purpose other than for which it was reserved: provided that the Minister shall not authorise any use in terms of this subsection until: (a) he has served notice thereof on the local planning authority, the owner of the land concerned and every owner of property adjacent to the reserved land and afforded them an opportunity of lodging objections or representations,” said the Minister.
“A Ministerial approval was thus needed for the change of land use but you proceeded to buy the stand before the Ministerial approval, let alone for the same.”
Minister Moyo said Clr Makombe allegedly failed to take action against some councillors who were part of an interview panel who allegedly received bribes from a person eyeing a council job, so that they could give him favourable marks.
“You failed to take action against councillors whom your council disclosed in the responses to the investigation report on the city to have exchanged money with a candidate for the post of director of finance, thus condoning corruption. There was unethical conduct by the then Acting Director of Finance to which council decided to suspend the process. The interview process went on but was marred with serious allegations of unethical conduct involving exchange of money between the alleged winning candidate and councillors who set on the interview panel,” he said.
He said Clr Makombe and other councillors also allegedly received some payments from council when they should not have been paid.
“Receiving money (token) amounting to US$300 in 2018 for rendering services to council and similarly allowing the payment of US$3000 to councillors in 2018 and 2019. The councillors were paid because they were part of the teams that were selected to resolve matters pertaining to the former town clerk, the 2014 employee salary re-instatement issue and the inquiry on the Zimbabwe Youth Empowerment Trust (Mkoba 21 stands) yet they were performing normal council duties. This was in violation of the Urban Councils Act and in defiance of advice from the chamber secretary over the unlawful payments,” said Minister Moyo.
The Minister also said Clr Makombe willfully violated a section of the Urban Councils Act through unprocedurally and illegally holding 44 Special Council meetings during the period from September 2018 to early November 2019.
He said the frequency of these meetings, among other corporate governance shortfalls consequently kept councillors at council offices with management heavily reducing management time for their day to day business.
“Evidence at hand shows that no request was given in writing calling for any of the 44 Special Council meetings. It is noted that from September 2018 to early November 2019, council held 72 council meetings. Of these nine were ordinary council meetings, 19 were committee meetings and 44 were Special Council meetings. In all these meetings, not less than six heads of departments were present,” said Minister Moyo.
Clr Makombe was given seven days to respond to the allegations, showing cause why he should not be suspended from the office of Councillor for Ward 2 and Mayor of Gweru City Council.