EMA Director General granted US$300 bail

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By Staff Reporter

ENVIRONMENTAL Management Agency (EMA) director general Aaron Chigona arrested Tuesday on allegations of abusing his powers as a public officer has been granted US$300 bail.

Chigona briefly appeared before Harare magistrate, Stanford Mambabnje and was not asked to plead.

He will be back in court in two weeks for his routine remand.

Allegations against him arose after he fraudulently issued an environmental impact assessment (EIA) certificate to Borrowdale Investments Private Limited.

It is the state’s case that the company’s project proponent Jin Liangming applied for an EIA to EMA for the development of cluster houses on two stands measuring 1,5773 and 23,9684 hectares in Borrowdale West, Harare.

It is also being alleged that the land was corruptly offered to Jin by the City of Harare officials already on remand.

“From September to October 2021, EMA reports conducted an assessment and review of the prospects of both the stands and the Director of Environmental Protection wrote to Jin informing him that the project could not be approved as the project area was within a wetland,” said prosecutors.

The court heard Jin was further advised to appeal to Chigona if he felt aggrieved by the decision.

Jin later reached out to Chigona on November 3 2021.

Chigona allegedly instituted a site ecological re-assessment on November 30 and nine days later wrote to Jin advising him of the Agency’s decision to stand with its initial decision

He also advised Jin of his right to appeal to the Minister in terms of the Environmental Management Agency Act.

On the 26th of July 2023, Chigona instructed Officers from EMA Harare Provincial Office, Armstrong Moyo and Leon Mutungamiri to come up with EIA review guidelines certifying that the area was compatible with housing development yet the area is the core of a wetland and the accused had earlier declined to grant EIAs.

“On the 02nd of August 2023, the accused inexplicably approved the proponent’s request for an EIA yet the agency had rejected it and the proponent had exhausted the agency’s appeal process.

“The EIA was in respect of the same project that he had declined to issue an EIA which he had steadfastly indicated was detrimental to the wetland,” said prosecutors.

By doing this, the state alleges that Chigona disregarded the appeal process and acted contrary to the provisions of the EMA Act.