Harare, (New Ziana) – Government was prejudiced of more than US$3 billion in mostly corrupt state land sales in the past 15 years as much of the income found its way into the pockets of land barons and others connected to influential people, and not treasury, President Emmerson Mnangagwa heard on Tuesday.
The revelation was made by Justice Tendai Uchena, who chaired a six-member commission appointed by President Mnangagwa last year to investigate the sale of urban state land since 2005.
Presenting the commission’s findings, Justice Uchena said state land valued at around $3.4 billion was sold to various beneficiaries during the period across the country, in most cases corruptly.
“Government has recovered less than 10 percent of the value (of the sold land) and is owed almost US$3 billion by beneficiaries,” he said.
The commission, which held public hearings across the country’s 10 provinces, established that the land was sold to connected individuals or was obtained corruptly through, among other ways, abuse of power.
Revenues from the sale of land, most of which was not properly developed as required by government when it was sold, went into the pockets of corrupt land barons and state officials, the commission established.
A total of 431 cases involving questionable land sales were red flagged, and recommended for further investigations by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, the police or National Prosecuting Authority.
The commission recommended lifestyle audits for officials who were involved in land sales as well as auditing of all land sales to ensure they were done according to laid down procedures.
Justice Uchena said at least US$2.5 billion was required to properly develop stands, build roads, water and sewer reticulation systems on land that was sold to citizens, most of whom had already settled on the land, but living without required amenities.
He said most of the property developments had been done without following laid done procedures such as getting building approvals from local authorities.
Politicians, he said, were partly responsible for the mess as they dished out land through dubious means.
Among a host of recommendations, the commission urged the setting up of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) under the Office of the President and Cabinet to deal with issues around sale of urban state land and development of housing for the next 10 years.
“The SPV should be able to spearhead development of the required infrastructure before passing it on to local authorities,” Justice Uchena said.
Setting up of specialised police units to investigate, and courts to deal with land cases, was also recommended.
A large number of people had been duped of hard earned monies by land barons who sold the same pieces of land to many people, who were now approaching the courts for redress, but are not finding joy as the cases were not being properly handled, Justice Uchena.
In response, President Mnangagwa thanked the commission for the “thorough investigations” into the matter.
“Government will seriously examine and interrogate recommendations you have made for the purposes of correcting and instituting prosecution, where prosecution is necessary,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said government had a huge task of ensuring people were properly settled with the requisite amenities.
He said the findings exposed the weaknesses in government systems that must be corrected as they allowed the state to be prejudiced of huge amounts of money in potential revenue.