Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
A housing consortium that settled over 8 000 people at Odar Farm in Harare South, commonly known as Southlea Park, has resisted efforts by Mr Philip Chiyangwa’s Pinnacle Property Holdings to demand compensation from it after Government returned the farm and two others to the property tycoon.
The consortium, comprising 56 corporates, said the decision by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to return the farms to Mr Chiyangwa was “null and void” as both the Administrative Court and Supreme Court had confirmed compulsory acquisition of the properties.
It questioned Mr Chiyangwa’s authority to reclaim title to the farms, that from the time of acquisition were represented by the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association.
This followed a letter written by Mr Chiyangwa informing the consortium’s executive that they stood dissolved, adding that the collection of money from stand holders was illegal from the onset.
Mr Chiyangwa had also threatened to evict stand holders that were not willing to subject themselves to Sensene, a subsidiary of Pinnacle Holdings.
“We regret to inform you that the contents of your letters are misplaced and misdirected,” said the consortium in a letter signed by all executive members.
“Odar Housing Development Consortium is a properly constituted legal body made out of 56 corporates. Its mandate is derived from its agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe,” it said.
They submitted that Odar Farm was compulsorily acquired by Government from the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association and not Pinnacle, that in turn lost an appeal in courts.
“We are clear that Odar Farm is state-land henceforth any purported move outside the ruling of the courts is illegal. Any correspondence to reverse the courts’ decision and rulings are being dismissed,” read the letter.
They argued that two separate letters written by the Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Eng George Mlilo, and director, Retired Colonel Joseph Mhakayakora, reversing the acquisition were of no legal effect.
“Be reminded that there is a caveat dated November 2 2009 to stop any transactions involving the remainder of Odar Farm. Therefore Sensene cannot claim ownership unless it is acting as an agent. Be also reminded that the nature of our agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe regarding compensation states that the farmer should make such demands from the Government, therefore direct all your demands to the Government and ensure that such processes are in line with Government policy on land acquisition as well as the Land Acquisition Act,” reads the letter.
When contacted, Eng Mlilio, declined to comment saying he was not in office.
“I am at a funeral somewhere. Get someone at the office to help you,” said Eng Mlilo.
In his letter, Mr Chiyangwa said the consortium had no legal right to negotiate settlement with him as he would proceed to engage stand holders directly for compensation.
“We are fully aware of the fact that you collected ‘interest’ from the beneficiaries at prices ranging between $5 000 to $7 500 to unsuspecting people, committing fraud in broad daylight. In perpetrating these criminal acts you were fully aware that the funds you were collecting from the beneficiaries were meant for our compensation for the land in question,” read the letter dated May 12 2015 written by Mr Chiyangwa.
He gave five days to the consortium to submit books of accounts for the money it received as he described the executive committee as an “imposter.”
“That having been said, we will not dignify your rogue consortium with any sort of engagement. Sensene needs direct interface with individual beneficiaries who are on the land…We therefore warn you that we will get rid of any person who insists on staying on the land on any terms and conditions other than those agreed to by Sensene,” he said.
The row stemmed from Government’s decision directing the consortium and Pinnacle to discuss compensation after it returned Odar Farm, Nyarungu Estate and part of Storidge Park that have more than 20 000 stand owners.
CFI has agreed on a $4 per square meter as compensation from people settled at Saturday Retreat Farm, commonly known as Ushehwekunze Housing Cooperative.