An internal audit report that reportedly triggered the suspensions indicates that council staff and councillors allocated themselves undeveloped stands they would have identified in the town.
“Consequently, as at 14 February 2016, council was prejudiced of $7 771 112, 88 in revenue as council ended up realising $349 962 from the projected $8 121 074, translating to a paltry 4% payment rate,” read part of the report.
The report listed all councillors who benefited from the alleged illegal land sales with one Charamba Mlambo said to have sold over 46 stands and one Lameck Chibvongodze also illegally selling 32 stands.
Mutoti, according to the report, allegedly sold land worth more $100 000 while Zanu PF national youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga is said to have been given an offer letter for a 2 000-square metre stand worth $16 710 by Chibvongodze although there were no records to prove that the ruling party’s youth leader paid for the land.
The councillors and top management, according to the report, also allocated themselves commercial stands which they allegedly later sold to land barons.
“The syndicate identified potential buyers of stands/land, processed offer letters directly in the names of these buyers, collected such offer letters on their behalf against council policy or in cases where transfer of such land is required, council staff would process cession without any payment made to council. The cartel has thus effectively transformed into real estate agents.”
The move to suspend the entire council came as President Robert Mugabe recently set up a special Cabinet committee to investigate suspected illegal land sales in all urban local authorities.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has suspended Chitungwiza Mayor Phillip Mutoti and all 24 councillors for allegedly corruptly allocating themselves tracts of land worth over $7 million.
Chitungwiza Municipality has 14 MDC-T councillors, including Mayor Mutoti and 11 Zanu-PF councillors. The minister will appoint a three-person caretaker council to clean up the rot in the municipality.
An internal audit shows councillors and officials allocated themselves commercial and institutional stands. Human resources manager Mary Mukonyora got 8,41 hectares, Clr Simbiso Mhike (8,413 hectares), Clr Nicholas Mashayamombe (3, 839ha) and Clr Charamba Mlambo (46 stands).
Other councillors also benefited from the looting spree. The audit revealed councillors and staff allocated themselves stands/land and undercharged by as much as $200 and proceeded to sell the same stands for $5 000.
The councillors were given seven days to respond after they were summoned to the parent ministry together with management to answer to the charges.
Minister Kasukuwere said the municipality was plagued by poor governance, negligible service delivery and outright corruption. The municipality serves a population of nearly half a million people.
MDC-T will boycott a by-election expected in Bulawayo soon following the Government’s firing of Ward 23 councillor Thobani Ncube who was convicted of defrauding a home seeker of $12 000.
Last week, Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Cde Saviour Kasukuwere fired Ncube after he was sentenced to 36 months in prison which was conditionally commuted to 630 hours of community service.
In an interview yesterday, MDC-T Bulawayo provincial chairman Mr Gift Banda said the party will maintain its stance of boycotting by-elections.
“Our stand is that unless there are electoral reforms we will not participate in any elections but we will cross that bridge when we reach it. But I understand that he has filed an appeal,” said Mr Banda.
Ncube was reluctant to comment on the matter when contacted yesterday.
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