Thursday, December 24, 2009

(HERALD) Chiyangwa, Harare in land row

Chiyangwa, Harare in land row
Business Reporter

HARARE businessman Mr Phillip Chiyangwa has accused Harare City Council of being a "bad debtor", saying it still owes him nine hectares of land he gave them in a swap deal in 2007. Mr Chiyangwa is also angry that council is trying to stop him from developing a piece of land in Borrowdale, which he says is an approved 2010 tourism project.

He was reacting to reports that council has directed that he should not be allowed to acquire more land and that his companies should be investigated over the land it has. Mr Chiyangwa says he entered into a deal with Harare City Council to swap land in December 2007.

He then proceeded to give council industrial land and they gave him open spaces.

Now he is trying to develop some of those open spaces and has duly applied to council for permission to do so.

He claims they gave him this land after being satisfied that he had delivered to them the land they required.

He says he has a Deed of Transfer entered into by his lawyers and the city council, in which council agreed to transfer land to him, in exchange for the land he had given them.

Harare City Council has continued to request land from him. As recently as January 16 this year council was still asking him for 40 hectares.

Town Clerk Mr Tendai Mahachi wrote to Pinnacle Holdings on January 16 2009 saying council had run out of land and was proposing to get more land from Mr Chiyangwa.

The letter reads: "Please be advised that the city has currently run out of industrial land to expand the City’s Industrial Land Bank and meet the increasing demand for industrial land from prospective local and foreign investors.

"To address this position, the city has embarked on an extensive exercise involving the identification and acquisition of land in the hands of private owners in the southern areas.

"Accordingly, the city intends to acquire forty (40) hectares of the industrial land along Masvingo Road created on Ordar Farm, which you own, vide Plan Number HOPU15 in batches of ten (10) hectares at a time by way of land exchanges or on such other mutually agreed terms."

Mr Chiyangwa says he is surprised that the council under Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda now appears to be fighting him when he had swapped land with them in a genuine business deal.

"All these are land swap deals," he said. "I have received 17,13 hectares in bits and pieces from the city council after I had given them over 25 hectares. I handed over to them land designed for industrial use immediately.

"They gave me public spaces but they are now not willing to assist me to change use of that land. They are now beginning to dishonour the agreements.

"They are clearly indebted to me. There are legal documents to prove that. They took land in 2007 and now they should be merely paying back. I thought they were a good debtor and I could give them land and then draw it later."

Recently council’s Environment and Management Committee presented an adverse report to a full council meeting on Mr Chiyangwa’s land development.

The committee expressed concern that council had issued "so many stands to Chiyangwa" and recommended a suspension of further land sales to the businessman.

But Mr Chiyangwa shot back: "I did not buy too much land. They took too much land from me and I am merely taking what is mine."

Harare City Council has, however, acknowledged that it owes Mr Chiyangwa land.

On January 21 2009 the town clerk wrote to Mr Chiyangwa’s lawyers, Kantor & Immerman, informing them that they had "identified and verified" the properties that the city would avail to Mr Chiyangwa, which totalled 17,13ha.

"We will now proceed to obtain council consent on these agreed proposals. The land that has been agreed has title and is transferable upon all council procedures being completed," wrote the town clerk.

The land was identified as Subdivision A of Stand 19675S.T.L (6,19ha); Stand 3789 S.T.L. (0,9945ha); Remainder. of Delmardeph G/Lorne (0,5012ha); Ballatyne Park (7,35ha) Remainder. of Block C of Hatfield (2,1ha).

On May 22 2009 council through the town clerk signed a Deed of Transfer in favour of Kilima Investments (Private) Limited, Mr Chiyangwa’s company, involving several pieces of land.

But in the latest twist to the council’s dealings with Mr Chiyangwa, council is now trying to stop him from developing a tourism facility on part of the swapped land in Borrowdale.

But Mr Chiyangwa insists the Borrowdale Road project is unstoppable. "It’s a 2010 project. I have a tourism operator’s licence for it."

He was referring to a Tourism Operators Licence issued to him by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

Mr Chiyangwa said Mayor Masunda should not be commenting on these deals since he sits on the board of directors of Old Mutual and that of Sisk, two companies that are Mr Chiyangwa’s competitors.

He said this might lead him to conclude the mayor is frustrating him in order to promote Old Mutual.

But Mr Masunda has said though he sits on the board of Old Mutual he would always recuse himself from any cases involving companies that he has interest in.

Old Mutual has been previously involved in a dispute with Mr Chiyangwa over the development of some land in Harare.

Mr Masunda told a local weekly that he is acting in response to public outcry over property developments being carried out by Mr Chiyangwa.

He said he had received several complaints from residents of Borrowdale and Ballantyne Park concerning Mr Chiyangwa’s land developments, which they alleged flouted environmental laws. Mr Chiyangwa had applied to council asking for change of use permission to turn open space and recreational space to a multi-purpose park.

The Director of Urban Planning Services recently told council that Kilma Investments was carrying out illegal developments in Borrowdale and that he had served Mr Chiyangwa’s company with an enforcement order and a prohibition order stopping him from further developing the land in Borrowdale.

Council then resolved that the town clerk submits a report detailing the chronological order of events on the preparation to sell pieces of land and town planning processes including the allocation done at the Borrowdale stand.

They also resolved that the Director of Urban Planning Services submits a report on all land sold to Mr Chiyangwa and companies associated with him.

It also recommended that council does not accede to the proposed change of use of the land and that council suspends any sale of land to Mr Chiyangwa and companies associated with him.

Mr Masunda said the recommendation of the committee had the effect of freezing whatever Mr Chiyangwa was doing at the Borrowdale property.

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