Unmasking land barons’ modus operandi: A case of Hopley’s desperate home seekers facing eviction

As a staunch Zanu PF supporter my eviction has become one of the most embarrassing moments in my life’


Reduced to rubble … some of the homes that were demolished after home seekers were duped by land barons in Hopley

HARARE – At a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa is touting his administration’s commitment to flush out land barons, in Lot 4 Hopley, Harare, 215 residents are battling displacements and demolitions that have sucked in highest offices in the country including the presidency.

A company called Tanaka Development Group (TDG) is behind the ongoing demolitions that began in 2016 and escalated in 2018.

Residents facing evictions and demolitions consist of 55 Zanu PF youths and their families. They were allocated stands in 2014 by then Harare South MP Shadreck Mashayamombe under dubious circumstances.

Mashayamombe parcelled out stands to Zanu PF youths ranging from 1,500 to 4,020 square metres through Harare South Housing Projects Cooperative Pvt (Ltd), formed by the legislator to empower youths.

He however made moves to repossess the stands through TDG after he was kicked out of the party in 2015, showing how vulnerable and ordinary persons are to land barons.

Mashayamombe, ironically controls 60 percent of TDG’s shares, while his business associate Tatenda Albert Kwarayi owns 40 percent according to the shares registry.

Tendeukai Justice Taruva, a Zanu PF youth and residents’ leader in April wrote to Mnangagwa pleading that he stops the evictions and demolitions amid allegations that state land worth US$300,000 was fraudulently seized by TDG from government.

TDG had on 13 March 2014 acquired 52,1375 hectares of state land in Hopley and Grobbie Park from the Ministry of Local Government.

The company was meant to pay the land’s intrinsic value of US$305,000 to the government, but did not, an investigation by ZimLive in collaboration with Information for Development Trust under a project probing corruption, bad governance and electoral manipulation, has revealed.

Taruva had previously engaged Zanu PF vice president Kembo Mohadi, Local Government minister July Moyo and his deputy Marian Chombo, among others.

State institutions among them, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) have also been drawn into the matter, which is also playing out in the courts.

ZACC is investigating allegations that TDG linked to Mashayamombe prejudiced the State of around US$300,000 after acquiring state land but failing to pay its intrinsic value.

Zacc spokesperson Commissioner Thandiwe Mlobane confirmed the commission was investigating the corruption allegations.

“ZACC confirms having received a report on allegations of corruption in the sale of land in Hopley. The case is under investigation,” said Mlobane in an interview.

The case also highlights how Zanu PF aligned land barons have been illegally parcelling out state land in urban areas, for personal and political gain while violating agreements.

The stands were allocated for free as part of a controversial Zanu PF empowerment program.

They were however supposed to pay the intrinsic value at a later date which was not supplied at the time of occupation.

The beneficiaries were also made to pay US$300 to Harare South Housing Projects Cooperative Pvt (Ltd) for electricity connection which did not materialise.

After allocations, Zanu PF youths were made to pay US$65 monthly subscriptions for the administration and development of the area, but the payments were not part of the intrinsic value settlement.

Although Mashayamombe has re-joined the party, his company is still trying to repossess the land.

The demolitions, which escalated in 2018, emanate from a fallout by former political allies because of Zanu PF’s factional fights.

Unbeknown to the youths at the time of allocation, TDG had acquired the land after a deal with Local Government ministry officials.

The youths say they were positive they would not face any hurdles because of their proximity to the then powerful legislator and their membership to the ruling party.

Cases of land barons operating in collusion with politicians to illegally parcel state land under the cover of shady housing operations is a repeating occurrence that continues unabated.

In the recent years, housing cooperatives such as Kunzwana Housing Cooperative in Warren Park D, Epworth Mission Development Trust, Tembwe Housing Cooperative in Budiriro, and Harare South Housing Apex Cooperative in Eyestone, Harare South, to name a few, have collectively defrauded thousands of desperate homebuyers, whose homes were later tragically demolished by authorities.

Most of these self-proclaimed illegal state land authorities have close ties with Zanu PF and continue to illegally allocate state land in urban and peri-urban areas as a tool to win elections or retain power, disrupting urban development and leaving a trail of destruction on urban wetlands.

TDG surfaced in 2018 claiming ownership of a total of 133 stands in Grobbie Park including the stands allocated to Zanu PF youths, who were labelled land invaders.

This was the first time the youths had heard of such a company.

TDG has been seeking the eviction of the 55 Zanu PF youths and the demolition of their homes using a subcontracted company called Tinborn Investments, owned by one Tinashe Neganda and Boniface Chikono.

Mashayamombe’s agreement with government

Documents gleaned by this publication revealed TDG has a genuine agreement which enabled it to acquire land at a song.

The company and the Ministry of Local Government entered a dodgy Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) on April 8, 2014 in which TDG was supposed to pay the latter US$305,000 for the land’s intrinsic value of the stands.

Crucially however, the company failed to fulfill its part of the bargain, including payment for land, despite making a killing from selling stands.

According to the MoU, TDG was supposed to construct a tarmac road network, two bridges linking Grobie Park with Brenson Road, and provide electricity and water amenities.

TDG was supposed “to provide on-site infrastructure, that is, roads and storm water supply to standards approved by the local authority.

“To contract, hire labour, procure building material materials, coordinate and supervise construction works,” read parts of the MoU.

Since 2018, TDG has sold more than 75 stands of state land without a certificate of compliance.

The company in return has only paid US$12,000 of the intrinsic value pegged at US$1.5 per square meter, prejudicing the state of nearly US$300,000.

TDG is selling the unserviced stands at US$20 per square meter using Tinborn Investments. The company’s clients are occupying the stands without the required certificate of occupation as directed by section 43 of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act chapter 29:12.

The layout design approved by the director of physical planning prescribed by section 43 the regional, town and country planning act chapter 29:12 states that TDG would allow stands to be occupied after meeting basic conditions.

“The stands shall not be occupied until: buildings based on plans submitted to and approved by the Local Authority have been constructed and completed thereon,” reads the contract.

“A reliable source of water approved by the Local Authority has been provided thereto.

“A certificate of occupation is issued by the Local Authority. The Registrar of Deeds shall not register transfer of those stands requiring transfer unless the application for such registration is accompanied by a Certificate of Compliance from the Local Authority confirming that the properties concerned have been satisfactorily serviced in compliance with conditions.”

Observations on the ground however, revealed that TDG and Tinborn Investments clients have already occupied without meeting the obligations stated above.

We are investigating: Chombo

Seeing that their backs were firmly against the wall, the residents formed an association to engage government agencies such as the Ministry of Local Government, the police, parliament, and ZACC to intervene on forced evictions.

Residents anticipated that by involving the Ministry of Local Government, they would be able to avoid evictions and pay the intrinsic value for their stands, as they had previously agreed in 2014 with the Harare South Housing Projects Cooperative Pvt (Ltd).

Between the period of May 5, 2022 to November 14, 2022, the residents engaged deputy local government minister Marian Chombo, who promised to solve the matter.

The residents told Chombo that TDG was in breach of an MOU it had with the ministry to develop the area. They also highlighted that the company had not paid the intrinsic value of the stands.

Chombo promised “to go on the ground” to investigate but has not done so, resulting in residents believing she is on Mashayamombe’s side.

Chombo however denied being compromised although she acknowledged investigations have taken too long.

“My ministry is handling the matter, it’s just that we have been slow in dealing with the issue. That’s why the Hopley residents are probably frustrated. I understand there were allocated stands through a cooperative, we are still investigating,” she said.

Enter Mohadi 

The residents got frustrated by Chombo’s slow movement and decided to engage Zanu PF vice president Kembo Mohadi through a letter on October 8, 2022.

Mohadi assigned his chief of staff Dr Clever Chirume to handle the matter.

The affected residents have held several meetings with Chirume, but a solution is yet to be found.

On March 1, 2023 Hopley residents’ leader Taruva held a meeting with Mohadi and Chirume decrying that Tinborn investments affiliates were illegally demolishing houses at night.

Taruva told residents after the meeting that demolitions would be halted while the vice president probes the matter, which could potentially disrupt the ruling party’s support base in the area.

Zimbabwe on August 23 is going for general elections and Zanu PF is hoping to win the Harare South seat, which it won in the last polls, thanks to many informal settlements in the constituency under the control of Zanu PF aligned land barons.

Tongai Mnangagwa, a close relative of the president, is the legislator for the area.

Despite Mohadi’s assurances, the demolitions have continued infuriating Zanu PF supporters and residents who see it as a betrayal.

Asked to comment, Chirume said: “The issue is a local governance matter; the best ministry to deal with the matter will be the ministry of local governance.”

The youth say they have encountered a slew of obstacles from TDG, including harassment, arrests, court litigations with distorted facts, assault and houses being demolished at night by hired thugs.

We were duped Zanu PF youths

“We were allocated stands in 2014 by Mashayamombe under a youth empowerment program. Mashayamombe defected to the opposition around 2015, but re-joined Zanu PF recently.

“We assumed he had come to address our stand concerns, but he now claims he does not know us, despite the fact that he is the one who allocated us stands,” said Deliwe Muwaki, one of the youths facing eviction.

“Working from behind the scenes Mashayamombe sends representatives from TDG to evict us from our homes. Since 2018 we have been harassed by hired thugs that go to the extremes of destroying the temporal structures we had erected.

“Thrice I had the house I was building being demolished at window level. Currently at my stand there is a Tanaka (TDG) employee claiming my home is her property,” said Deliwe Muwaki, one of the residents facing eviction.

In 2018 TDG successfully evicted six youths, Tobias Mandiringa, Kudakwashe Gwaze, Hardlife Mutero, Tapiwa Mabhiza, Tinashe Chigwida and Story Musara who were also allocated stands by Mashayamombe in 2014.

The evicted youths failed to mount a defense in case number HC 7442/2018 1/5 held at the Harare’s High court in which TDG successfully argued the youths were land invaders bent on disrupting proper development of Grobbie Park.

In March 2020 three other youths Taruva, Ned Matumbu and Valenite Muchingamwa were served with summons of eviction by the magistrates’ court from TDG.

TDG’s lawyers Makuku legal practitioners labelled the trio as illegal settlers and invaders bent on disturbing Harare’s proper urbanisation through criminal acts of land baronism.

Under case number COM1003/20 a default ruling was made in 2021 by the magistrate’s court evicting the trio after their lawyer did not show up to court because he fell ill with Covid-19.

Investigations unearthed that TDG in 2021 subcontracted a company called Romapix Construction, fronted by Tinashe Dlamini, to construct a road network.

Romapix Construction representatives have had several running battles with the Hopley residents that have been resisting evictions and demolitions.

Tinashe Dlamini in an interview professed ignorance about the demolitions and said TDG availed him a High Court ruling that evicted Taruva, Matumbu and Muchingamwa to justify his illegal demolition and eviction attempts on other residents.

“I was not aware of the demolitions.

“All I just did was ask the people from Tanaka and they sent me their demolition order from the courts.

“As you can deduce, we are not party to the court process that involves those issues,” said Dlamini.

In a leaked audio recording, Dlamini is heard trying to bribe Taruva while persuading him to encourage the Zanu PF youths to vacate the stands he had been given as payment for constructing a road on behalf of TDG.

Dlamini in the audio boasts of political protection and state institutions such as ZACC and the police if the residents continue to resist the evictions and demolitions.

Residents Leader Harassed

Taruva has emerged as one of the most vocal leaders of the youths. He has been arrested several times and residents believe it is a ploy to deter him from representing them.

On November 30, 2022, when Taruva was supposed to meet Local Government minister July Moyo, he was arrested by Waterfalls police on allegations of criminal trespass which later morphed into fraud allegations.

Taruva spent 30 days at Harare Central Prison under prison number 2511/22. He was released on December 31, 2022.

In March this year Taruva wrote a letter to the officer in charge of Waterfalls Police Station complaining that police officers were ignoring and sweeping under the carpet cases of victimisation being reported by residents.

This letter was written after a youth resident Brian Muchaombera filed a police report in February under RRB 541 4714 alleging criminal trespass against Aaron Chidanire and a hired bouncer Lawrence Simbarashe Mapfumo. The matter was allegedly swept under the carpet.

A month later, Chidanire erected a precast wall that encircled Muchaombera’s stand before filing a criminal trespass report at Waterfalls Police Station alleging Muchaombera had illegally settled in his stand.

Both Muchaombera and Chidanire’s dockets were supposed to be presented at Mbare Magistrate’s court, but Muchaombera’s docket was not submitted by the police. He ended up being the alleged perpetrator before the courts.

The matter is currently before the courts.

Realizing that no action was being taken prompted residents’ leader Taruva to write another letter to the commanding officer at Harare Central District in April this year, lamenting how the police at Waterfalls had turned a blind eye to TDG’s demolitions and forced evictions.

“On behalf of Lot 4 of Hopley residents petitioning your honourable office to look into issues that involve the failure to deal with, or reluctance of the Waterfalls Police Station to investigate criminal activities perpetuated by Tanaka Development Group, Tinashe Dhlamini, Aaron Chidanire and hired bouncers from Mbare and Mufakose.

“These acts include, intimidation, assault, unlawful demolition of houses and incessant disturbances of construction projects at Lot 4 of Hopley.

“The matter is being handled by the (local government) ministry as we speak.  The main problem is while we are seeking pacific means to this dispute settlement, we have fallen victim to the criminal activities of these people and entities. Against this background Waterfalls Police Station has failed to do anything,” read parts of the letter.

We are now laughing stock: Youths

Kudakwashe Gatsi, a Zanu PF youth, who was also allocated a stand in 2014 lamented how his eviction had made him a laughing stock in society.

“I have always wanted a home to call my own for me and my family, however, I was wrongfully evicted from the stand I was allocated in 2014, and I am now renting in another area in Hopley,” he said.

“As a staunch Zanu PF supporter my eviction has become one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. I have since become a laughing stock because all my efforts working for the party were for nothing since the state land I was allocated by Mashayamombe was taken.

“I am a family man who has seven children and my eviction is negatively impacting on my family, and I am appealing to the higher authorities in the party to come to our aid from the victimization we are facing,” said Gatsi.

Mashayamombe refused to comment.

“Write what you want, we have a lot of problems that we are focusing on, there is nothing bad that hasn’t been written about me,” he said.

Spenser Mavura, a Zanu PF youth, warned that the victimisation they were facing would negatively impact Zanu PF support base in future elections.

“I have five children, my first born is 16 years old. He will soon be eligible to vote and given the reality that we were illegally evicted and my house demolished, my child will grow up harbouring a grudge and will deviate from our party to the opposition.

“The names appearing on the stands and those currently staying on stands are not the same. I don’t want 20 stands, I Just want one stand. I grew up in the party, and was raised by the party, my parents were war veterans.

“What we know is that our parents fought for land and land is what we want is not money. What I want is my one stand. We thought our victimization was a product of party feuds between Zanu PF and MDC Alliance, but alas we were wrong, Mashayamombe is back in Zanu PF and is still victimising us,” said Mavura.

This story was commissioned by Information for Development Trust (IDT) and published by ZimLive.

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