Zanu PF bigwigs complicit in sucking the last blood out of Chitungwiza City Council


A combination of weak controls by city managers, outright corruption and political patronage has seen Chitungwiza City Council lose millions of dollars in foregone revenue on hundreds of properties owned by the struggling local authority .

Chitungwiza has a giant portfolio of real estate including nurseries, breweries, bars, butchers and shops, but many of these have been annexed and turned into private property by occupiers led by a clique of individuals powerful, an investigation established .

According to a 2020 auditor general’s report on local authorities, most businesses operating from properties leased by Chitungwiza City Council were sitting on long-expired leases and also not paying rent.

The AG cited 24 tenants sampled by its office for some of the businesses that failed to pay rent for the year 2017 and the total amount billed was US$85,813. AG said “recovery of the amounts was questionable.”

Additionally, 41 properties occupied at the time did not have a rental agreement in place.

Some leases did not have a lease amount, lease period or tenant name. A sample of six was scored.

The rot continues amid claims the council is now powerless in the clutches of combative individuals willing to use their political connections to eliminate any tenancy requests or eviction attempts.

An investigation into the extent and nature of the looting found some Zanu PF officials in Chitungwiza, former party advisers and former senior council officials, topping the list of culprits.

These include Charamba Mlambo, Wilfred Gwekwete, Joshua Mabhiza, Ignatius ‘Mambo’ Nyakwete, Margaret Dizah and Lloyd Bhunu.

What is in common with the lot is that they are all Zanu PF loyalists, with some being former councilors and former High Council employees.

Some tenants have divided council properties and built confectionery shops there using unapproved plans and sub-letting the properties to small businesses from which they pocket 100% of the rents without paying council dues.

Most of the occupied properties are in a dilapidated state, with collapsing roofs, smashed windows, shattered boundary walls and torn security fencing.

For example, the Katanga Bar in St Marys, which is in the hands of Ignatius ‘Mambo’ Nyakwete, a former council employee, owes the council $3,343,920.81 as of September 2022, according to database information. provided to this reporter by counsel.

Nyakwete manages the property without a lease and has divided parts into illegal confectionery shops from whose tenants he religiously collects rents for himself.

A tenant who declined to release his name said he pays US$200 in monthly rent to the space baron.

Nyakwete, it emerged, is a former council worker who was offered to rent the bar in lieu of unpaid wages that had accrued over the years of his employment.

Charamba Mlambo operates the Zengeza 5 brewery, part of which he leases to a car mechanics garage and a parking lot operator.

The property is a horrifying testament to sheer neglect, featuring a broken perimeter wall and the clutter of car shells strewn throughout the yard.

The former Zanu PF Councilor for Ward 7 was described in interviews with residents as a notorious land baron who amassed wealth by misusing council properties.

The list of high net worth defaulters is endless.

Margaret Dizah, another person with close ties to Zanu PF, leads unit A Creche whose premises and land she rents to three religious organizations, namely the AFM, the Citadel and the Emmanuel Faith Apostolic Church linked to the prophet Makandiwa.

At night, the place functions as a parking lot.

In Unit L, former Zanu PF councilor Mabhiza, who died not so long ago, took over almost three-quarters of the council building which he also leases and remains in the hands of surviving members of his family.

The property has no rental agreement.

The so-called Mabhiza complex includes two bottle shops, two supermarkets and two butcher shops.

Zengeza 3 Mini Bar is rented by Lloyd Bhunu, a former Zanu PF adviser, central committee member and former council credit controller.

Similarly, the Nyatsime bar operated by Margaret Stephen under municipal account number 52511006010, owes $4,108,523.70 in unpaid rent and is now used as a bar, parking lot, takeaway, car lube store and diner. training space for karate in violation of the lease agreement.

Zengeza Beer Hall owes $5,617,929.79.

The rents have been revised quarterly, which means they used to be much smaller.

Some of the properties were let to former high profile employees as a compromise arrangement to relieve the pressure of paying severance packages which the council could ill afford.

Through a government gazette, the council in March 2020 opened up its properties to new offers and continued to accept deposits from new tenants whose occupancy was resisted by incumbent tenants.

Some Ward 10 residents under Councilor Peter Clever Matiringe have since called on Parliament to use its influence to help evict occupiers whose leases have long since expired.

Reached for comment, Mlambo distanced himself from accusations of non-payment of rent saying his Zengeza 5 tiller is leased by Branstone Motors and denies any business ties to the named company.

Dizah, who says she has used unit A Creche for more than 20 years, admitted she was managing the property with a long expired lease.

When asked if the expired lease allowed her to sublet the property, the elderly occupant shockingly said she had never read the terms and conditions on the document.

She admitted she was a Zanu PF loyalist but denied using her position to breach the terms.

She begged this reporter to spare her the embarrassment of being exposed for her crimes.

« Nhai iwe journalist mwanangu, asi urikuda kuti nditorerwe creche (My dear, why would you want me to lose my crib).

“Ndine 80 years old mwanangu. I’m a widow. Handina chimwe chinondiraramisa (I am 80 years old and have no other source of income.

“Musandiomesereo. Mivudzo yenyu imwe handigoni kuipindura (Please don’t be too hard on me. I don’t know how I can answer some of your questions),” Dizah said, while claiming that she receives between $30 and $60 a month from congregations using the property every weekend.

Also contacted by telephone to comment on Katanga Bar, which he holds illegally, Nyakwete made a point of physically meeting this reporter.

« Ndirikuda kutaura newe ndichikuona (I want us to discuss the matter with you face to face).

But this journalist insisted on a telephone interview after being warned beforehand that the businessman was hostile.

The fiery former council employee did not answer any of the questions asked but chose to issue threats while demanding to know who would have used this journalist against him.

“I want to tell you that there is something you are up to. Rega kushandiswa nevamweo vanhu (cease to be used by my enemies).

“Iwewe hauna right yekundibvunza inini direct, kukanzuru haukuzive iwewe. Kana uinezvinhu zvaurikutsvaga ka, it is your right but neni ndichatotsvaga iwewe wacho. Haikona kuramba uchindifonera (You have no right to ask me about council issues. It is true that you have the right to do your journalism work, but I will also hunt for you. Stop harassing me.

Bhunu, a former central committee member of Zanu PF and former board credit controller of Chitungwiza, which has operated Zengeza Mini Bar since 2015, was more engaging.

It didn’t take any effort to get him to admit that he hasn’t paid his council dues for a long time, nor does he have a valid lease agreement.

“I am a former council employee and the agreement was that we could retire from our jobs and the council is offering us opportunities for a two-year period.

“Our tenancy agreements were subsequently canceled and we were asked to renew them, which we did, but the council did not go back on it,” he said.

When asked why he gave up his responsibility to pay the rents, Bhunu said, “We have just come out of the Covid-19 period and things are difficult for us.

“For two years, I did not operate. Business has been affected. I have just taken over and I agree to pay my rents.

He added: “It is not true that we are resisting deportations because we belong to Zanu PF.”

The businessman said the maintenance of the properties was on behalf of the council and if anyone repaired the property the council would have to reimburse them.

Gift Kurupati, general secretary of the Association of Progressive Residents of Chitungwiza, blames council trustees for allowing politicians to seize authority.

“Service delivery is affected because council properties do not generate any revenue for the council, the money is pocketed by the few politicians,” he said.

Chitungwiza has only paid a few months’ wages for its approximately 950 workers throughout this year.

The city is a political center.

The CCC-dominated local authority remains powerless amid influential individuals doing what they choose rather than council ownership.

The Deputy Mayor of Chitungwiza, Councilor Musa Makweza, admits partisan politics have hampered the proper administration of the local authority.

“What affects the situation are the politicians who interfere with the process. There are people who are untouchable,” he said.

Acting City Clerk Evalista Machona, however, is keeping a strong face amid the crisis and denying the council is being captured by politicians.

“We are buying properties. It’s only a matter of time,” she said.

“I don’t think it has to do with politics. These are just people who just don’t want to leave these premises for selfish purposes. We will simply expel them through our lawyers.

Asked to comment on the Auditor General’s observation that the city administration was presiding over weak controls, Machona said, “We are trying every way to make things work.

“It’s just that we’re dealing with human beings who are just adamant that they want to continue using these properties with expired leases.”

Some of the properties are used as meeting points by Zanu PF, it emerged during investigations.


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