Sanhanga seeks recourse on Mutare Meikles Park deal

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The Mutare Meikles Park land in question which is opposite Sanhanga Building Complex in the central business district.

…Opens up to Meikles Park saga

“It’s sad to see the state of the park right now two decades after. I wanted it to boost the land value of the entire area and still leave land for public functions such as the Luna Parks and church conferences but could have done more to upgrade it or even build the hotel that council wanted. But I never got that opportunity for some reason they kept preferring offering the land to other people despite the fact that I was the first to propose to buy it and rent it out,” said Sanhanga.

Ngoni Dapira

Real-estate businessman Joseph Sanhanga

WITH the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) investigations reportedly on course into the Mutare Meikles Park saga, Pandora’s Box has been opened as popular local real-estate businessman Joseph Sanhanga is now seeking recourse on the deal revealing that he was the last officially authorized leaseholder of the lucrative piece of land situated in the central business district.

Businessman cum-politician Dangamvura-Chikanga legislator Esau Mupfumi

In 2014 businessman cum-politician, Dangamvura-Chikanga legislator Esau Mupfumi through his company Stallvic Enterprise (Pvt)Ltd received the Meikles Park land on a lease to purchase agreement from Mutare City Council, an agreement that was purported to be under the instruction of the then Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Dr Ignatius Chombo. This was regardless of the deal having been strongly opposed by residents.

Mutare City Council Town Clerk Joshua Maligwa.

Mutare Town Clerk Joshua Maligwa said he has already given ZACC all the relevant documents regarding the matter. However, on Tuesday a new twist came up in the ongoing matter that has taken public interest after Sanhanga opened up on the matter for the first time in nearly two decades.

Sanhanga said following the probe he was recently asked about his involvement in the Meikles Park, which has now stirred old emotions and made him inquisitive about the way his lease agreement was ‘questionably’ cancelled back then. He even made several attempts to challenge the local authority legally on the matter but eventually got frustrated and gave up.

In an interview with the Eastern Times, Sanhanga said with the recent revelations from the probe on the suspected ‘corrupt dealings’ in the Meikles Park wrangle, he now believes he was elbowed out by green-eyed ‘corrupt’ people in both council and government that had developed interests for the lucrative land during his tenure as the leaseholder with the City of Mutare signed on October 7, 1994.

His lease agreement was approved by Full Council on December 18, 1990 following his proposal for the purchase or lease of the public open space. The contract was supposed to be continuously renewed after every 10-years unless an agreement of sale was made.

He said he was however frustrated and surprised that on several occasions a lot of companies and individuals were being offered the land without him knowing about it or being offered the similar proposal to purchase the land.

“For instance, in 1998 I only got to see in the local newspaper (the Manica Post) that a South African developer McCoormick Property Development (MPD) was being courted by council to buy the property for $160 million and build a bus terminus for the council for free. The deal did not however sail through after public outcry as residence questioned why the council was opting to give a foreign company the land when there was an indigenous business person interested in the land who was already involved at the site,” said Sanhanga.

An editorial comment in the Manica Post in 1998 written following the public outcry on the Meikles Park issue, which eventually suppressed the local authority from pursuing its intentions to sell the land to the South African company in question.

Showing this reporter some archived newspaper article clips and documents he added, “I remember there was this editorial comment in the local newspaper in 1998 about the issue where council was being blasted questioning whether ‘the city fathers realise that land is crucial for the economic emancipation of blacks?’ This wrangle eventually put pressure on council to forgo the deal,” said Sanhanga.

He added that it was frustration from that Meikles Park deal that he eventually opted to forgo the deal and buy Irene Township just outside Mutare along the Mutare-Harare highway, which is now called Valley of Kings, where he is currently selling residential and commercial stands with a vision of building a futuristic pilot medium and low density suburb.

However, after failing to sell the land to MPD in 1998, Sanhanga said the City of Mutare again discreetly entered a purchase agreement with the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), which only surfaced in the public domain in 2013 when the local authority had repossessed the land from NSSA, with the latter challenging the move. Up-to-date the dispute is still at the High Court.

An advert put in the Herald in 2014 by NSSA concerning the issue.

Whilst the matter was still at the High Court, to the surprise of many, in 2014, the City Council entered another agreement with Mupfumi through his company Stallvic Enterprise (Pvt) Ltd that received the Meikles Park land on a lease to purchase agreement. The deal was alleged to be under the instruction of Dr Chombo. Residents petitioned against this but the petitions fell on deaf ears.

Sanhanga showed his last rental payments by his company Glenrinnes (Pvt) Ltd (Which this reporter is possession of) made to the local authority on November, 5, 2007 for rentals of $36 000.00 for Meikles Park with interest to purchase. He said after that despite several attempts to engage the local authority there has never been any response on the matter concerning the land dispute.

“With the coming in of the new government which is talking about zero tolerance towards corruption, I have decided to open up on this sensitive issue that I never talked about even when there was a media blitz on the matter in 2013 when NSSA and Mupfumi entered into the saga. But now, I want justice to be ensured on this matter and hope it will be settled amicably and competently. I want recourse on this issue to know who the owner of the piece of land is and want inquiry on who deserves to purchase it or who purchased it before because everything was being done clandestinely,” said Sanhanga.

Sanhanga who was the first black entrepreneur to build a double-storey building in the CBD of Mutare, which was commissioned by the then President Robert Mugabe in 1992, said his vision back then for the Meikles Park which is just across the road opposite to his building was for it to be a modern recreational centre which would add commercial value to the area where his complex is situated, boosting business at his complex.

“It’s sad to see the state of the park right now two decades after. I wanted it to boost the land value of the entire area and still leave land for public functions such as the Luna Parks and church conferences but could have done more to upgrade it or even build the hotel that council wanted. But I never got that opportunity for some reason they kept preferring offering the land to other people despite the fact that I was the first to propose to buy it and rent it out,” said Sanhanga.

Yesterday (Thursday) Maligwa said he did not know much about the background to the matter. He however said Sanhanga was free to submit all the documentation he had to ZACC because as a new Town Clerk he had nothing to hide and intends on seeing justice take its course on the matter concerning Meikles Park.

 

 

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