14 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Wrangle Over Govt Stands Intensifies

THE long running housing stand saga involving a local church-cum land developing company over Tynwald Lot 14 in Harare has intensified with the residents association claiming they have terminated the partnership arrangement.

The purported termination of the housing project comes amid indications that more than 200 stands which the developer held as surety were sold illegally.

The Tynwald Development Association Lot 14 alleges that Life Ministry, who were the project developers after signing an agreement with government and the association on June 19, 2008, have failed to perform their contract and have sold off more than 217 stands measuring in excess of 500 square metres.

The developers were supposed to hold the stands in trust in case of failure by the residents, to pay for land development. Life Ministry is headed by Reverends Farai Katsande and John Matsika.

Joseph Chirima, the chairman of the Tynwald Development Association, said the stands, which had been set aside as surety in the event of failure to pay for developments, were sold through a private company -- Dougspace Investments whom they had nothing to do with.

Dougspace is owned by Katsande and Matsika.

"We believe Dougspace is an instrument of corruption and want the transaction investigated, as we do not know how they came into the picture," he added.

Chirima said that the association terminated the agreement with Life Ministry in September this year whereupon its directors were now trying to substitute the church with Dougspace.

Previously, the use of the private company as a developer has caused a furore between the association and the company's directors. The association has persistently refused to deal with Dougspace saying they entered into an agreement with Life Ministry instead.

"As it stands, we as an association have agreed to settle on our stands. City council is replacing the old line with a new one for water after the developers failed us. The developers have not met the council's requirements hence the delays in us moving to our stands, but we have since terminated the partnership agreement with Life Ministry," said Chirima.

He said the developers had failed to supply council with engineering designs for sewer, water and valve chamber as well as to supply stage inspection forms and connections to existing infrastructure.

"This means they were not meeting laid down requirements and flouting procedures willy- nilly," charged Chirima.

Director of Urban State Lands one Mr Shawatu who is privy to the whole deal could not be reached for comment before going to print but in a letter he wrote to the association on October 19 this year he called for an amicable solution.

"The ministry recommends that the developers, Dougspace be allowed to complete their task since work on the project is almost complete," he wrote.

Shawatu acknowledged that the memorandum of agreement expired in November 2010 but then advances "reasons" he says make the point for allowing the developers to continue working.

However, he differs with the association in identifying the developers as Dougspace and not Life Ministry yet the agreement was signed with the latter.

Contacted for comment, Matsika refused to talk.

"I am not in a position to answer you or talk to you," he said alleging that the story published early this year was false.

However, in a conversation with The Financial Gazette after the paper published a story on the housing scheme earlier this year, Katsande said they had to put up a separate legal entity in order to operate legally, implying that the deal was done prior to registration of Dougspace hence the use of Life Ministry.

"We had to put up a separate legal entity to operate legally. The contract had been signed with Life Ministry then Life Ministry ceded to the company (Dougspace). That's how it ended up with Dougspace. There is documentation seeking for that from government," he said via phone from the United States in an unpublished interview.

He said the government was aware that the stands were sold.

"It could have been an oversight that we did not understand the legal language. The stands are ours. They were given to us as compensation for the work," charged Katsande.

He alleged that the whole fiasco was a result of misunderstandings "with one or two people".

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