Bulawayo Mayor leases council farm for a song

Residents are up in arms with the Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s decision to lease a 3.5 hectare plot in Lower Rangemore to mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni, at a rental fee of ZWL$165 per month for the next 25 years .

The residents suspect the agreement and price was fraudulently made to benefit the city mayor, with the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) saying it will launch a formal inquiry with council.

Bulawayo mayor insists everything was above board and even invited residents to view the council resolutions.

According to a council advertisement No. 8155 flighted May 30, 2020, BCC awarded Lot 3 of Lot 3 in Lower Rangemore to Clr Mguni.

The advertisement said the stand shall be used for urban agricultural activities only and the mayor is to pay a monthly rental of ZWL$165 excluding Value Added Tax (VAT) that shall be paid subject to review.  

“The stand shall be for an initial period of 25 years subject to review. Any developments on the stand shall be in accordance with the approved plans and relevant council by-laws. All costs related to the least of the stands to be borne by the applicant,” read the advertisement.

BCC made the resolution to give the mayor land in March 4 2020 and invited the public to view the application at the Director of Housing and Community Service and make objections to the council.

“Any persons objecting to the above proposals are herby required to lodge their objections with the undersigned, Po box 591 Bulawayo in writing no later than June 19, 2020.”

Residents suspect such as agreement was made corruptly as they questioned how the mayor can pay such a low price.

“ZWL$165 per month for 3.5hectares of prime land in Bulawayo, is this normal. He is paying virtually nothing for the lease of that land. Worse it’s a lease for 25 years,” residents said, as they debated in social platforms

In an interview with CITE, the mayor claimed he was legitimately awarded the land by council .

“I was given the land by council after a resolution was made. The advertisement invites those who are objecting to make their objections. If there are people who don’t want me to be give the land they can make their objections too. The advertisement is clear that those who are interested in the land or those who say the land is theirs can object,” Clr Mguni said.

He added that the price of the land was done by the city’s evaluator.

“I am not the one who put a value to the land, that’s all I can say,” the mayor said.

Clr Mguni said residents could go to the city’s chamber secretary to view the council resolution if they suspected there was something amiss.

“The council resolution is there for viewing as these are public records,” he said.

BPRA coordinator, Emmanuel Ndlovu, confirmed that on behalf of residents, the organisation would inquire from council how such decisions came by.

“We want to push the local government ministry as well that councillors must not have such privileges instead must serve residents. As BPRA, we will definitely pursue this matter for better understanding and accountability. Councillors are now taking advantage of their positions.  We are disappointed that this group of councillors are after wealth as well considering the actions of the previous crop,” he said.

Ndlovu said BPRA was currently seized with the water crisis at Luveve, where some families had lost relatives due to suspected poor water quality.

“We are taking legal action, working with lawyers to see how best we can handle the water situation and as soon as we are done with that, we are taking this land matter up,” he promised.

In 2017, former Deputy Mayor, Gift Banda was also accused of corruptly purchasing a piece of land at Ascot Racecourse for the construction of town houses but was acquitted by a Government-appointed independent tribunal of any wrongdoing.

He however was found guilty of using his influence to acquire a lease for the construction of a social club at Hume Park.

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