Commission looks into Figtree land deal

The Commission of Inquiry into the illegal sale of state land is investigating the development of housing stands in Figtree after learning that a private developer engaged by Bulilima Rural District Council (RDC) in 2010 to service stands is yet to deliver.

To make matters worse, the council officials lost the original copy of the contract, which it had signed with the private developer (name supplied).

This negative development means the local authority cannot supervise or hold the private developer to account since it has no terms of reference.

The land commission heard this Wednesday when Bulilima RDC, Chief Executive Officer, John Brown Ncube appeared with his team before the commissioners over the unserviced land in Figtree.

Ncube said the private developer was engaged between 2010 and 2011 to service 577 stands in Figtree but since then has been doing a haphazard job and council was struggling to contact him.

“We misplaced our contract and we want to retrieve the copy from the developer. By the time that contract was drafted, the council was not computerised which made storing documentation a challenge,” he confessed.

Ncube claimed the developer was partially on site, resulting in the unfinished stands while council staff were finding it hard to locate him as they wanted to change some architectural designs.

Upon such revelations, the land commission inquired from the council staff who owned the Figtree land in question.

The Bulilima RDC boss opened another can of worms when he claimed the land belonged to the state but was given to the local authority in 2005 via a verbal agreement, whose processes of handover were still being carried out.

“The process of changing ownership has been cumbersome, you go to this office or that one and you can’t keep up. The land was given to us council through a gentleman’s agreement between the arms of government for urban development.

“Council then moved in to service the land and put water. When council was midway in the project, the government came up with the Hlalakani Kuhle programme and put its people on the already serviced land,” Ncube explained.

He, however, clarified that although the status of ownership was not clear, the land had been designated for agricultural use because documents from the deeds office indicated it is a farm.

Chairperson of the Land Commission Inquiry, Justice Tendai Uchena, said they had no option but to visit Figtree to investigate the matter thoroughly.

“We are coming to Figtree tomorrow (Thursday). Let us meet on the ground for a proper investigation,” he said.

The land commission which was appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has been conducting public hearings in Bulawayo to hear from people who have been displaced and prejudiced in the reallocation or sale of land.

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