A group of homeless people and two other applicants have approached the High Court seeking to reverse a murky 2007 land deal between Harare City Council and a Ukraine-registered company Augur Limited.
According to the court papers, Augur Limited was allegedly illegally allocated more than 239 hectares of land without paying anything to council.
The Zimbabwe Homeless People Federation (ZHPF), Knowledge Tinashe Kwambana and former Harare City councillor Warship Dumba have sued Harare City Council, the Minister of Local and Public Works, government, Ken Sharpe and others demanding that the land be given back to council and reallocated to thousands of people on the housing waiting list.
In the court papers filed on March 11 this year, Harare City Council and Augur, owned by controversial businessman Sharpe, entered into a land joint venture in which Augur was allocated 70 percent shares with council getting 30 percent in the company they formed called Sunshine Development (Pvt) Ltd.
Harare was the represented by then Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi and the then chairperson of the Commission running Harare, Sekesayi Makwavarara.
In the agreement, the joint venture was supposed to build middle income houses and a hotel at Malbereign Golf Course, develop a commercial centre at Hopley and Mukuvisi among other projects.
Initially, the deal was for council to transfer 99 hectares of land to Augur but in the end they transferred 239 hectares which is now the subject of a dispute in courts.
The land was transferred to Augur’s Doorex Properties which is also cited as a respondent.
Augur was also supposed to invest USD$30 million into the project but so far no cent has been paid to council and the developments agreed have not been done but Augur already the vast tracts of prime land in the agreement.
The affidavit by Dumba partly reads: “I seek a Declaratory Order to the effect that the shareholders agreement and indeed the agreement itself was a nullity and void ab initio. I seek a cancellation of all the deeds of transfers of the land to the 7th Respondent (Doorex).
“I contend that the agreement executed between the city of Harare and Ist respondent (Augur) is a nullity in that we as councillors ratified the same. In addition, I was elected councillor in March 2008, yet Minister Chombo went behind our backs and appointed a commission, an illegal commission chaired by Michael Mahachi in May 2008.”
Dumba argues that he is basing his arguments on the fact that those who signed and executed the Memorandum of Agreement and the Shareholders Agreement had no authority from the City of Harare to act as they did.
He further argues that Augur, being a foreign investor, lacked the requisite approvals and compliance with Zimbabwe’s Investment Laws.
“The disposal of land was done inconsistent with the Urban Councils Act, the agreements in any event were fraudulent and were contracts against public policy. The agreements should be set aside on the basis of unjust enrichment,” reads part of Dumba’s affidavit.
Kwambana and the Homeless People’s Federation also deposed affidavits with the same argument.
The court papers allege a criminal conduct between Augur and the City of Harare.
The applicants charge that Sharpe is a land baron who owns extensive land in Zimbabwe through his Augur Investments company.
In their joint affidavit the litigants say above all the illegalities of the allocation of the land in question, the joint venture company failed to honour part of its agreements.
“More particularly it has failed to inject the capital sum of USD$30 million as was envisaged in the Shareholders’ Agreement. They failed to use this loan agreement to develop the land for the purposes that the parties agreed, namely among other things residential suburbs and a hotel.
“More than that, instead of developing the land, the 7th respondent will effectively become a land baron selling and allocating part of the property that ought to be developed.”