In a significant development, Harare City Council has been prohibited by the High Court from engaging in direct sales of land to companies and individuals. This decision follows the illegal sale of the Mount Pleasant Sports Club and golf course, which resulted in the imprisonment of two high-ranking council officials. The court’s ruling aims to ensure transparency, fairness, and public participation in the land sale process. This FAQ article provides a comprehensive overview of the case, addressing key questions about the court’s decision, the reasons behind it, and the implications for future land sales in Harare. By presenting balanced and accessible information, we strive to shed light on this crucial issue affecting the city and its residents.

What has happened to Harare City Council regarding the sale of land?

The High Court has barred Harare City Council from selling land directly to companies and individuals. This decision comes after the illegal sale of Mount Pleasant Sports Club and golf course, which led to the imprisonment of two top council officials, finance director Stanley Ndemera and chamber secretary Charles Kandemiri, who received effective six-year jail terms for criminal abuse of office.

Why did the High Court make this decision?

Justice Pisirayi Kwenda, in his judgment, ordered the council to cease the practice of direct land sales. The court ruled that all land sales should involve public advertisements to allow interested potential buyers to come forward and allow objections to be raised. This ruling aims to ensure transparency and openness in the land sale process, preventing wrongful sales and giving citizens an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Were the sales of Mount Pleasant Sports Club and golf course conducted according to the council’s standard operating procedures?

No, the court found that the sale of the sports club did not follow the required procedures. The standard operating procedure stipulates that the sales process should begin with a written application from an interested party, specifying the piece of land they wish to purchase. However, there was no record of such an application in this case.

What was the court’s reasoning for prohibiting direct sales of land?

Justice Kwenda emphasized that the practice of direct land sales, as outlined in the council’s standard operating procedure, should be discontinued. He argued that this procedure contradicts the principles of public procurement, which are meant to ensure transparency, honesty, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness, as enshrined in the Constitution. The judge further noted that it is unacceptable for citizens to only become aware of council land disposals when development activities take place.

How does public procurement relate to this ruling?

Public procurement is a process that promotes fairness and equality by providing all businesses with an opportunity to participate in the market. The court’s decision to prohibit direct land sales aligns with the principles of public procurement by ensuring transparency and equal access to land sales for interested parties.

Were there any other individuals involved in the case?

Former mayor Herbert Gomba and town clerk Engineer Hosea Chisango were initially charged alongside Ndemera and Kandemiri but were later acquitted due to a lack of evidence. The court determined that Gomba and Chisango had minimal involvement in the offence, and there was no criminal liability attributed to them. They signed the agreement as designated signatories, believing that the necessary checks had been performed by other officials.

What were the court’s findings regarding Ndemera and Kandemiri?

The court convicted Ndemera and Kandemiri for criminal abuse of office, ruling that they had abused their positions to sell the council-owned Mt Pleasant Sports Club without following the proper procedure. Justice Kwenda described their actions as a dishonest alienation of public property held in trust. The court emphasized the seriousness of their offence, as it involved the privatization of valuable state land, causing prejudice to the fiscus (public treasury) and potentially depleting land resources for future generations.

What was the value of the land sold and to whom?

The land, which included the Mt Pleasant Sports Club and golf course, was sold to Hardspec Investments for $23,923,340. The club itself was valued at US$2.3 million.

Who represented the individuals involved in the case?

Mr. Joel Mambara represented Ndemera and Kandemiri, while Garikai Mhishi and Gyton Vhiriri acted as legal counsel for Mr. Gomba and Eng Chisango.

The High Court’s decision to bar Harare City Council from direct sales of land represents a significant step towards promoting transparency and fairness in the land sale process. By ordering public advertisements and allowing objections to be raised, the court aims to ensure that land sales are conducted openly and that all interested parties have an equal opportunity to participate. This ruling serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to proper procedures and upholding the principles of public procurement. As Harare continues its efforts to combat corruption and safeguard public resources, it is crucial for the council to prioritize responsible land management and consider the long-term interests of its citizens.