Chitungwiza councillors have challenged their suspensions on allegations of corruption amid indications that not all of them would be arraigned before a tribunal hearing.
By XOLISANI NCUBE
The councillors, accused of illegally selling State land prejudicing the municipality of $7 million, were suspended by Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and told to respond to the allegations within seven days.
Yesterday, Kasukuwere said all the councillors had challenged their suspensions and his legal department was looking into their responses to make a determination on who should appear before a tribunal.
“Our legal team will start evaluating the responses against the charge. Thereafter, those with clear cases of violating the law will be forwarded to a tribunal that would be appointed in accordance with the law,” Kasukuwere said.
The Local Government minister is empowered to appoint a tribunal to probe councillors accused of any misdoing and if found guilty, the tribunal can recommend expulsion.
According to the allegations being levelled against them, the 25 councillors were involved in the sale of land for personal gain and a three-member team was appointed to take care of affairs in the city.
As of yesterday, it was still unclear whether the three-member team, chaired by Civil Protection Unit head Madzudzo Pawadyira, would be paid as it emerged that Chitungwiza town coffers were dry.
The allegations emanate from an audit report conducted by council’s internal audit team that exposed dubious land deals.
The report stated that council staff and councillors were identifying undeveloped stands and submitting such stands for verification and allocation by council’s housing department to themselves and connected beneficiaries.
“Consequently, as at February 14, 2016, council was prejudiced of $7 771 112,88 in revenue as council ended up realising only $349 962 from the projected $8 121 074 translating to a paltry 4% payment rate,” read the report, which is among the basis for their suspension.
The report listed all councillors as having benefited from the illegal land sales with Charamba Mlambo said to have sold over 46 stands improperly, while Lameck Chibvongodze was said to have sold 32 stands illegally.
Mayor Philip Mutoti reportedly sold land worth more $100 000. Zanu PF youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga is said to be one of the beneficiaries of the loot after he was given an offer letter for a 2000m² stand from Chibvongodze valued at $16 710 although no money had been paid for the land.
The councillors and top management, according to the report, allocated themselves commercial stands before selling the same to land barons who in turn sell them to desperate home seekers.
Some of the named land looters are Zanu PF councillors who since their election into office have had a drastic change in lifestyle.