Phillip Chiyangwa chickens out

HARARE – Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and eight Harare City councillors were Tuesday cleared of the criminal defamation charges they were facing after the complainant, controversial Harare businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa withdrew the charges.\r\n

Chiyangwa told Harare magistrate Memory Chigwaza on Tuesday that he was withdrawing the case due to changed circumstances from the time he reported the matter to the police and now.

The former Rhodesian policeman-turned-businessman and politician did not explain the changed circumstances although in the past he has announced in the media that he struck a deal with the councillors and the mayor.

Masunda and the eight councillors were arrested after a special council committee investigating the theft of vast tracts of prime land in Harare implicated Chiyangwa and the Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo.

In the report, council resolved that it would take back all the land acquired by the duo as prescribed in the Urban Councils Act and also resolved to report the matter to the police.

However, police never took action and instead, it is the councillors who were arrested. The journalists who exposed the scandal were also interrogated by police from the notorious Law and Order Section but due to lack of evidence, they were later roped in as state witnesses.

Councillors who spoke to the Daily News soon after the court case said they were not aware why Chiyangwa suddenly decided to withdraw the case saying they wondered why they were dragged to court in the first place.

“Maybe he is now aware that his case is so weak he cannot stand the heat. We were ready to go all the way with him in court. Our resolution remains the same – council has to repossess all its land which was taken away improperly by these well connected people. Also we resolved that those who stole council land must be arrested.

“As councillors, we are empowered by the Urban Councils Act to set up special committees to investigate such anomalies like the theft of land from council. The Act also protects us from being held liable for the outcome of our investigations.

“Chiyangwa was supposed to have been advised by his lawyers of this but somehow they did not. It’s now up to him to take it up with his lawyers. From here, we are going to hold an emergency meeting to come out with strategies to recover council land improperly acquired by different individuals in society,” said the councillor who refused to be identified.

The councillors refuted reports that they had reached a mutual agreement with Chiyangwa resulting in him withdrawing charges. They said they would proceed to implement the recommendations of the special council report.

Chiyangwa’s woes worsened four months ago when government acquired one of the farms he had subdivided into residential stands. He had reportedly sold some of the residential stands to companies and individuals.