Tsvangira takes on Chombo over riches

IGNATIUS Chombo, Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development personally benefitted when he appointed a caretaker council in 2008 that awarded him prime land in Harare, investigations by The Standard have established

This was the same time that a project to dualise Harare International Airport Road was awarded to Augur Investments OU’, a company that shared the same premises with Chombo’s Harvest-net Enterprises.

Documents in our possession show that during the 63-days that the caretaker council was in office, Chombo acquired stand numbers 61 Helensvale and 293 Avondale in Harare.

The matter was reported to the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission last year but no action has been taken yet.
In light of police inaction, councillors have urged Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to petition President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to seek an explanation from Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka last week confirmed that the Prime Minister had discussed allegations raised against Chombo with Mugabe.

“I can confirm that the Prime Minister has had a discussion with the President concerning serious allegations of corruption leveled against minister Chombo,” said Tamborinyoka, who however could not divulge the details of the meeting.

During its tenure, the  caretaker council, which was appointed by Chombo, also employed 742 workers without advertising the posts and awarded the US$80 million airport road dualisation project to Augur without going to tender.

Investigations by The Standard have established that at one time Augur Investments shared the same address with Chombo’s Harvest-net Enterprises (Pvt) Limited at 62 Quorn Avenue, Mt Pleasant, Harare.

It has also been established that Chombo formally informed Michael Mahachi of his appointment as chairman of the caretaker council on May 21 2008, the same day the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the council and Augur Investments (Pvt) limited was signed.

“The minister was therefore endorsing an agreement being signed by his appointee (Mahachi) with Augur, a company that shares and operates from the same address as his company, Harvest-net Enterprises (Pvt) Limited,” said one councillor, who has done an analysis of the tenure of the caretaker council.

The MoU was, however, approved in retrospect by the caretaker council in its meeting on May 29 2008, which was chaired by Mahachi, himself a signatory of the MoU.

The Airport Road deal between the City of Harare and Augur Investments was structured in such a way that the Estonian company would acquire land from council as payment for the dualisation of the road.

The Harare City Council has so far transferred close to 733,9 hectares of land to Augur as payment for the project although councillors say no meaningful work has been done on the ground.

The company has registered some property that it got from city council in seven locally registered companies.
Augur Investments has since sub-contracted the airport road project to Power Construction (Pvt) Limited, a South African company, resulting in Augur further charging council facilitation fees amounting to US$1,2 million.

Investigations have revealed that Augur Investments’ physical address is a small flat in an industrial area in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn and was registered on September 3 2007.

The shareholding agreement between council and Augur Investments, which created Sunshine Development (Pvt) Ltd, was signed on September 4 2007, just a day after the registration of the company.

Augur Investments has close links with West Property (Pvt) Limited, a company that Chombo recommended to be a partner in the development of the disputed Crowhill project.

Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda referred all questions to Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi who was said to be in meetings last week.

But chairman of the State Procurement Board Charles Kuwaza confirmed that the airport road dualisation project did not go to tender.

“Not to my knowledge,” said Kuwaza. “We never dealt with that matter.”

Augur Investments director Michael van Blerk did not respond to some of the questions raised by The Standard saying they were not true.

However, three weeks ago, Augur Investments denied any link with Chombo.

“There is no relationship been our company and ninister Chombo other than his role in the government of Zimbabwe as minister of local government,” said Augur in an e-mail response.

The company also denied knowledge of Harvest-net Enterprises, although a representative of Augur Investments, Oleksandr Sheremet, used the same address when he signed a shareholder agreement with the City of Harare on September 4 2007.

Contacted from comment Chombo demanded questions in writing because the issue happened a long time ago.
“Why are you asking things that happened a long time ago?” questioned Chombo. “Put you questions down and I will go through them on Monday. I am at Murombedzi at the moment. In any case, who is making those allegations?”
ENDS///