By Anyway Yotamu.
Zimbabwean lawyer Tendai Biti, 53, who was recently freed on a $10,000 bail after a night behind bars on the charge of assaulting a Russian national has said the ‘Airport Road Scandal’ is the biggest land heist in post-colonial Zimbabwe.
Biti was involved in litigation, representing George Katsimberis in the Harare Airport Road scandal, against Tatiana Aleshina, a Russian national, who was allegedly whispering information to the prosecution constantly.
Ms Fadzayi Mahere, a prominent Zimbabwean lawyer and politician who has had a prominent career in legal advocacy, rubbished the assault allegations saying the assault allegations were meant to divert attention from the airport road scandal which Biti was unearthing.
“It is not a crime to call a person an ‘idiot’. It doesn’t constitute assault under Section 89 of the Code. This is abuse of the law to silence Biti and divert attention from the Airport Road scandal which he’s unearthing,” said Mahere.
Recently, Biti took to twitter and shared that the airport road scandal was the biggest land heist the country has faced in post Zimbabwe.
“The airport road scandal is the most uncouth, most crude land heist in post-colonial Zim. They took thousands of hectares of land but failed to construct the road. They did not have council approval. The High Court set aside the agreement. Now they have captured the State,” he said.
Land developer, Katsimberis – represented by Biti – recently unearthed how Ken Sharpe of Augur Investments allegedly acquired vast tracts of land as payment for an incomplete Airport Road project now known as the Joshua Nkomo Express Way.
During a High court case in which he sought to block Pokugara Properties Pvt Ltd’s first Deed of Title transfer to Erasmus and Sibusisiwe Chindove, Katsimberis said Kenneth Raydone Sharpe is a fraudster who has permanently been defrauding the people of Zimbabwe either in the form of Government, local authorities, the residents especially of Harare and business people.
Katsimberis and Sharpe locked horns following a bogus land deal which they reportedly signed in 2015. To support his assertions, Katsimberis said Augur Investments is a peregrine company which has neither a Property nor registered or operating office within Zimbabwe. Befittingly, it was required to pay security costs before it could be granted audience before any court of law in Zimbabwe as in case HC5989/19.
“The Court will be interested to know how Kenneth Raydon Sharpe, through his company known as Augur Investments Pvt Ltd without going to tender and without compliance with the country’s Procurement Act was awarded a tender to construct the Airport Road now known as the Joshua Nkomo Road from the Harare International Airport now known as the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport by the City of Harare,” reads his statement.
Pokugara Properties Pvt Ltd is one of the pieces of land, Sharpe received as payment for the construction of the Airport Road. Augur investments was supposed to ensure that the 15-kilometre road went from the Harare International Airport to Dieppe Road in Braeside suburb, before being extended up to the intersection of Robert Mugabe Road and Enterprise Road in the city. Augur Investments’ contributions barely surpassed 3km.
Sharpe initially pegged the total value of the project which covered less than 20 kilometres, at a staggering $80 million which ignited excessive speculation with councillors questioning why the project cost so much when a similar road project stretching 77 kilometres, done by the Zimbabwe Platinum Mines in Chegutu, was valued at $19 million.
Sharpe reportedly said Airport Road was more expensive than Ngezi Road because the latter was a rural road which used inferior construction material.
Contrarily, the Comptroller-General for the financial year ended December 2010, stated that the cost of constructing a road should not exceed US$500 000 per km.
Going forward, the then Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo terminated the contract and handed it over to the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) on the basis that government was unhappy with the project under Augur Investments.
A report conducted by the city council’s Special Lands Investigations Committee said Augur lacked the technical expertise to implement the project after it emerged that the company had no proven track record on road works.
Concurrently, before the termination, Augur Investments reportedly subcontracted a local company, Fairclot Investments (Pvt) Ltd trading as Trucking and Construction (Pvt) Ltd to carry out the construction of the road for a total sum of US$4,800,000,00 which is drastically less than the thousands of acres of land it received as payment for the project.
As was anticipated, Sharpe and Augur Investments ostensibly refused and failed to pay Fairclot Investments prompting the latter to seek justice in the court of law. Following arbitration, Fairclot Investments was awarded the sum of US$4,8 million.
Leveraging on the change of currency introduced by SI 33/19, Sharpe cleverly offered to settle the debt in Zimbabwean dollars to the tune of $3, 340, 500,00 which Fairclot Investments refused. The former is yet to receive the payment. Again, Katsimberis said this is fraud.
Meanwhile, Fairclot Investments recently took to outdoor advertising, cautioning land seekers against purchasing land on Stand 654, Pomona Township stressing that the land is still under litigation as it was pledged as security for the services rendered by Fairclot Investments to Augur on the aforementioned project.
Knowing that litigation was brewing, Sharpe allegedly never registered all the land he received from City of Harare under Augur Investments, an instance which is said to have allowed him to dodge payment to Fairclot Investment.
For six years, the construction of Airport Road in Harare remained incomplete, with Zimbabweans wondering why a 20km stretch of tarmac could cost a shocking US$80 million and take that long to finish.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Auditor General’s office have separately called for probes into the airport road contract. Infact, the construction of the 20km road is among dozens of cases of suspected corruption that ZACC promised to investigate.
An investigation into the project, would find how taxpayers and Harare ratepayers ended up paying eight times more than was recommended, how the City of Harare gave away vast tracts of prime land to pay for the project.
The City Council’s Special Lands Investigations Committee report added that the then Town Clerk, Dr Tendai Mahachi, confirmed that council officials met Augur representatives at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in 2007 after which the firm was awarded the US$80 million contract without a formal tender.
It is alleged that Augur was awarded the tender for the project after it formed a joint venture company, Sunshine Developments (Pvt) Ltd, with the Harare City Council. Council had a 30% stake while Augur held 70%.
The shareholder’s agreement which created the JVC (Sunshine Development Pvt) was signed on September 4 2007 — a day after the registration of Augur in Estonia although it had already signed the first MoA in June 2007.
It also emerged that Augur’s representative, Mr Oleksandr Sheremet, who signed the agreements with Harare City Council, only became a member of the Augur board on September 18, 2008.
Council investigators noted that Augur Investments was registered on September 3 2007, although it had already signed the first MoA in June 2007.