An up-market housing scheme in north-eastern Harare meant for top police officers was allegedly hijacked by former Police Commissioner-General Dr Augustine Chihuri in its final phase, and he allocated himself three hectares initially marked for communal boreholes.
According to report by the Land Commision set to investigate abuse of State land, Dr Chihuri also ordered land originally set aside for a hotel and a club house to be subdivided and parcelled out to civilians.
The report further says US$4 million collected as deposit fees for a second scheme of 900 lower-ranking police officers in Hatcliffe, cannot be accounted for while at the site there is only two show houses and a few roads built.
The Land Commission chaired by Justice Tendai Uchena is recommending thorough investigations into the upmarket scheme, Police Heights Housing project at Gletywin Farm in Harare, concentrating on the third phase where the commission finds a lot could have gone wrong.
The planning and construction for this phase was approved without the mandatory involvement of the Environment Management Agency, and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority and Government, a development viewed by the Land Commission as an irregularity that must be investigated by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
Many police bosses holding the rank of assistant commissioner and above built mansions on the land during the tenure of former Police Commissioner-General Chihuri and double-storey mansions dominate the leafy suburb with some still under construction.
But Dr Chihuri reportedly influenced the subdivision of almost 6ha reserved for a hotel into five residential stands that were allocated to civilians, when the project was meant for members of the police and security services. Dr Chihuri allegedly asked for the change on the basis that more land was needed for his senior officers.
A club house stand measuring 2,6 ha was also subdivided into residential stands, yet this land was once a recreational park and some stands are within the prohibited distance from a water course.
According to the report, Dr Chihuri walled and gated the 3ha of land on which police had drilled the eight boreholes for use by all residents.
To that end, the commission has recommended that the Local Government ministry should investigate the circumstances under which Dr Chihuri appropriated the land.
The commission also recommends that the “Registrar of Cooperatives should cause audits of all financial records and general compliance with the Cooperative Societies’ Act by the Police Heights Housing Cooperative.” .
The ministry, EMA and ZINWA should investigate and take corrective measures regarding the creation of stands in Phase 3 of the project, the commission said adding that the officials in the local government ministry, who were involved in the approval of the lay out plan and subdivisions, should also be investigated.
Meanwhile, the housing project for lower ranking officers in Hatcliffe where about 900 people were allocated stands in 2011 next to ZRP High School is causing concern among members of the police force.
In terms of the housing deal, beneficiaries would get offer letters upon payment of US$4 500 through CABS, after which they would be entitled to a four-roomed cottage. Further developments would be at the individual owner’s expense.
Hundreds of officers paid the required initial payment but they are still to get the houses. No construction has been taking place as there are fears and allegations that some former senior police officers may have grabbed the US$4 million meant for developing the stands.
ZRP was allocated land in the area by the Ministry of Local Government for the development of a title-holding individual home ownership scheme for police officers. The housing scheme was bankrolled by Zimbabwe’s largest mortgage financier, CABS, under a 10-year mortgage arrangement.
Initial costs of servicing and building four rooms were done by both the ZRP and the building society.
A copy of one of the offer letters reads: “Stand sizes range between 250 to 500 square metres. Once the mortgage terms and other preliminaries are concluded, beneficiaries will be asked to sign mortgage documentation. Cost details: US$17 623, 98. Total deposit US$4 473,00 and monthly instalments for 10 years of US$202,00. The amount paid as deposit will have a bearing on the level of instalments to be paid.”
Those who paid the money, have not been offered the houses and efforts to get an explanation from the superiors were fruitless.
The depositers even wrote a letter to Dr Chihuri through some senior police officers who were, by then, in-charge of the project but did not get any response.
When our Harare Bureau visited the area recently, there were two show houses that were constructed in 2011 and a few roads. The area is just before the ZRP High School and there is a billboard that is still erected at the area which is inscribed Zimbabwe Republic Police; CABS (financier); Old Mutual Property (project manager); Zimbabwe ZACE Engineers and CMN-YBJ (consulting engineers).