1K civil servants ‘duped’ in botched land deal
More than a 1 000 civil servants in Bulawayo were allegedly duped of their money when a land developer failed to deliver housing stands they were promised in Cowdray Park suburb.
The group entered into a contract with River Valley Properties five years ago but up to now they are yet to take possession of the housing stands.
River Valley Properties is run by popular Gweru businesswoman and property developer, Simelinkosi Dube, who is accused of selling state land.
This emerged during public hearings in Bulawayo, Wednesday, on urban state land where scores of the affected government employees gave oral evidence before the commission of land inquiry led by Justice Tendai Uchena that they were possible victims of fraud.
The teachers said they signed up to River Valley Properties for stands since they were introduced to the housing scheme by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
After signing up and signing contracts with the land developer, monthly payments were deducted from their salaries.
The agreement was that the beneficiaries will pay $50 a month for six years but, five years later, the teachers are yet to receive their stands or their money.
The matter only came to light when the beneficiaries learnt through the press that River Valley Properties was involved in a dispute over the same land with another land developer, Denver.
After that notice, some of the beneficiaries approached River Valley for clarification and were told that they would be moved to Rangemore and after running into some issues there they decided to move the beneficiaries to Goodhope but the move was reportedly blocked by the Bulawayo City Council.
Appearing before the commission, Dube who was in the company of her lawyer Nqobani Sithole of Ncube Attorneys, River Valley Properties’ legal officer Brian Chitsungo and the company’s financial director Richard Chiwara, claimed that she did not know the land she had acquired would result in a dispute.
Dube said they were allocated the land in Cowdray Park under Okuhle Consortium and the offer letter was signed by the permanent secretary of the local government ministry.
“The then minister of local government Ignatius Chombo had hailed the initiative saying civil servants had accommodation challenges so this initiative was good. The uptake by civil servants was good. The total area in Cowdray Park was 420 hectares, which could accommodate 10 000 stands with an individual stand measuring between 300 and 400 square metres.
“We started work in that area servicing the land and after we were done a court case arose when the owner, Gamabwe Private Limited said the land was theirs. The court granted an interdict and we stopped although we had already serviced the land,” she said.
Dube’s lawyer added that these unforeseen circumstances could not have been prevented by River Valley Properties, which was now looking for alternative land for its clients.
“Fairly or unfairly, the clients signed the contract and by cancelling they are in breach of the contract,” Sithole said.
The commissioners pointed to Sithole that the clients had cause to be disgruntled since the initial contract was not honoured.
“The person is not in breach why do you want to punish the client for an unforeseen circumstance because the client is in the same position they were in before, which is they still have no stands. There is an element of natural justice,” concurred the commissioners.
The land commission has been interrogating government and local authorities’ officials on various matters pertaining to acquisition, allocation, planning and development of urban state land handed over by the Ministry of lands to the Ministry of Local Government Infrastructure Development and Urban Development.