COURT: Biti details illegal land grab in dodgy deal between Augur Investments and Harare City Council

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By Staff Reporter

HARARE East legislator, Tendai Biti has revealed that part of the land reportedly grabbed by Augur Investments in their dispute with the City of Harare (COH) was nefariously seized without the knowledge and approval of its stewardship, the office of the President of Zimbabwe.

Biti, who was testifying in a case where he stands accused of verbally insulting Russian investor Tatiana Aleshina, said his accuser, who fronts for Augur Investments, had fraudulently used her connections to the President to cow COH into submission.

According to Biti, the agreement between COH and Augur Investments was more of a penalty clause than a contract.

As per terms of the agreement, should either of the two parties terminate the contract only City of Harare was liable to pay 35 percent in compensation in the form of land.

Following the dispute between the two parties, Augur Investments went on to claim 277 hectares of land in Pomona.

The land, according to Biti, was illegally grabbed without the approval of the President and the local government minister.

“Stand 654 in Pomona was brought into the dispute between Augur and COH, the land does not belong to COH; the land belongs to the President by deed of grant,” Biti said.

“The land was transferred without the signature of the President and the minister of local governance.

“Aleshina has the power to see the President. With her influence, the permanent secretary of Local Governance wrote a letter to COH telling them to settle out of court.”

Biti said the land was transferred through coercion driven by the name of the President.

The Harare East legislator said statements recorded from one of the commissioners of the council at the time exposed the bribe in the form of land they had received following the successful execution of the airport road and sunshine agreements between local authorities and Augur Investments.

“The land was an appreciation for what the commission had done and what they had done was to execute the Harare airport road agreement and sunshine agreement.

“I urge the court to (direct) an investigation to ascertain the truth of the matter. There are statements to confirm that there was bribery.”

The airport road contract was signed without proper consultations, according to the former finance minister, and efforts to acquire the bill of quantity were made later on.

“It was only after the signing of the contract that consultations were done via a South African company, Power Construction, with the initial cost projections to be estimated to be worth US$68 million. However, the figure was inflated to US$80 million without any justification.”

Biti said US$27 million was paid to Augur Investments through payment certificates without assessing the work done.

The project manager who granted the interim certificate, according to Biti’s testimony, was Michael Mahachi who also signed as the commissioner of COH in 2008.

Biti said Mahachi was receiving two and half percent of the money paid.