40,000 graves risk being dug up at Harare’s Glen Forest; businessman claims cemetery illegal in High Court case

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By Mary Taruvinga

OVER 40,000 bodies at Chikomo Chemhute, an entity which houses Harare’s Glen Forest Memorial Park, are at risk of being exhumed after a Croatian businessman, Joseph Richard Crnkovic alerted authorities on abuse of the land.

The businessman, through his company Fopuld Investments, has mounted a High Court application suing Candrina Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Evolution Group Ltd, Chikomo Chemhute and Matidoda Farms Pvt Ltd over the use of agriculture and housing land for graveyards.

Crnkovic is a director of Fopuld Investments (Pvt) Ltd Zimbabwe, which is said to hold a 49% shareholding in Candrina, the company which owns Chikomo Chemhute.

“The fact is that Fopuld, as a minority shareholder in Candrina, is entitled to protection from predatory and prejudicial conduct on the part of Candrina’s other shareholders and to be protected from illegal activities that may have devastating effects on its investment,” wrote his lawyers in the application.

Crnkovic made an application in terms of section 223 of the Companies Act, seeking an order declaring the affairs of Candrina unlawful.

He is seeking an order preventing the respondents from selling grave sites and operating a crematorium in Chikomo Chemhute until there is approval.

He said the deed to the land in dispute specifically states that the land must be used for residential and agricultural purposes only.

“Candrina chairman admitted, in a board meeting, that it would be impossible to apply for and obtain a change of use permit  to operate a graveyard and crematorium on the property,” said Crnkovic.

“Despite this knowledge, the respondents in concern, and outside the bounds of the law, have proceeded to operate a cemetery and crematorium on the property.

According to Crnkovic, Candrina Chairman, Muparadzi, has proposed to give Crnkovic burial sites on the land as part of a settlement proposal to buy him out of Candrina.

He said the courts should protect the interests of member companies.

He said Chikomo Chemhute has no authority or licence to operate a graveyard.

“In addition, the sale of graveyards outside of the law means that Candrina is at risk of multiple civil suits from members of the public who have purchased gravesites for their loved ones. All this will affect the value of the applicant’s shareholding and potentially affect its dividends.

“It potentially opens up the possibility of civil litigation by the loved ones of the illegally buried in the graveyard in the event that the minister responsible decrees that the graveyard be shut down and the bodies be exhumed,” he said.

Last year Crnkovic appealed for consular protection and diplomatic intervention, claiming that he was facing prosecution, disclosing that Chikomo Chemhute Cemetery was an illegal enterprise.

An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people are buried in a hidden and illegal cemetery.

Crnkovic further claimed that there was no Environmental Management Agency (EMA) approval to bury people on the farm because it is in a catchment area of the Mazowe Dam and right next to Mazowe River.

The matter is yet to be heard.