President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been cornered to explain a secret land deal with controversial millionaire businessman Ken Sharpe after a Harare MP and two others went to court to get it reversed.
Allan Norman Markhan, the MDC Alliance MP for Harare North, is one of the litigants who want the land deal between City of Harare and controversial businessman Ken Sharpe – apparently forced through by local government minister July Moyo – to be reversed on the grounds that it was not only illegal but a “grand theft” of land belonging to the people of Zimbabwe.
‘The agreement represented a complete fraud, a massive land heist against the people of Zimbabwe’
The deal involved 273 hectares of prime land in Harare’s affluent area of Pomona. The land is worth US$205 million, but was allegedly undervalued to a mere US$20 million.
Court papers filed on March 10 show that after a series of litigations between the City of Harare and Sharpe’s Augur Investments, a secret Deed of Settlement was executed on May 28, 2018, at the behest of Moyo who also claimed he had Mnangagwa’s authority. Herbert Gomba, the then-mayor of Harare, signed for the local authority.
Mnangagwa is cited as the ninth respondent in the court filing.
The deal gave Sharpe’s Augur Investments dubious and illegal immunity from litigation over disputed vast tracts of land he acquired through the Airport Road Construction project which itself was not completed. There is no evidence to suggest that Sharpe paid for the land he was given by Harare.
As the local authority was trying to regain the land through the courts, Moyo, representing himself and Mnangagwa signed a secret deal offering Augur and its associated companies, directors and representatives immunity from past, present and future litigation over the land by the government, council or any third parties.
The deal was signed without the knowledge of the full council and Gomba was not authorised to sign it on behalf of the local authority, lawyers for Markhan, housing activist Jacob Pikicha and the Tavonga Savings Scheme say.
The Deed of Settlement partly reads: “Upon signature of this Deed of Settlement, the Minister (July Moyo), City of Harare and Augur undertake to withdraw all and any legal actions and proceedings, both civil criminal, pending against each other before the courts.
“The minister undertakes to instruct the Coghlan, Welsh and Guest to release the title deeds to stand number 654 Pomona Township to Augur. Immediately thereafter, the Minister and/or the President shall sign all and any documents necessary to facilitate and effect the transfer of the said stand to Augur or its nominee, Doorex Properties within 14 days.
“The COH guarantees that it has the requisite authority to sign this Deed of Settlement. The minister (July Moyo) warrants that he has the requisite authority from the Government of Zimbabwe and the President to sign this Deed of Settlement as well as all the necessary documents involved in the transfer of Stand 654 Pomona Township to Augur.
“Further to the above the above, the ministry and COH, in the spirit of Zimbabwe being open for business and to support Augur in its continued investments, undertake, subject to statutory compliance, to expedite the issuance of all and any necessary licences and permits to Augur and its related companies for any of its developments which it is carrying out in Harare.”
Augur has been allocated nearly 700 hectares of land in Harare, sparking dozens of legal disputes.
The secret Deed of Settlement was reached after COH won several cases against Sharpe but the businessman then went for arbitration where Justice November Mutshiya ordered that Augur be compensated to the tune of US$15 million. The COH appealed and won again at the High Court.
This prompted Augur to approach the Supreme Court but they withdrew the case and before the council knew what was happening, a Deed of Settlement was signed with the parties claiming that they had reached a resolution.
Markhan, Tavonga Savings Scheme and Pikicha argue that the Deed of Settlement is not only illegal but a clear case of theft of prime council land.
In their affidavit, the three applicants want an order that the Deed of Settlement be set aside citing a number of reasons. The affidavit partly reads: “The signatories to that agreement namely Herbert Gomba and Hosiah Chisango (COH), who purported to act on behalf of the City of Harare did not have any authority from the City of Harare. The honourable Minister July Moyo lacked authority from the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Deed of Settlement itself is against the public policy of Zimbabwe, it being founded on illegal and extremely corrupt set of facts.”
They want an order “setting aside the transfer of the property covered in the Deed of Settlement to the 7th respondent (Doorex Properties) being a certain 273,2 hectares of land called Stand 654 Pomona Township.”
The applicants also want the original agreement between the City of Harare and Augur for the development of the Harare Airport Road declared null and void on the basis that besides the illegal signatures on the Deed of Settlement, the deal did not go through tender and did not comply with Zimbabwe’s Investment laws. They say in any case, the deal conditions were never fulfilled.
They added: “Further the agreement represented a complete fraud, a massive land heist against the people of Zimbabwe. The Deed of Settlement is also a nullity because the agreement contained provisions that purport to grant criminal immunity to Augur Investments and its associates. To that extent, it is an agreement that offends the laws of Zimbabwe and in any event it’s an agreement contra to public morality.
“There is no other reasonable explanation as to why the Deed of Settlement was signed other than corruption and an attempt to deceive the residents of Harare and the people of Zimbabwe.”
The respondents are yet to file a response.