Crime and Courts

Cops lose US$4m to former Commissioner Chihuri in housing deal

Cops lose US$4m to former Commissioner Chihuri in housing deal. According to a report by the Land Commission set to investigate abuse of State land, the money cannot be accounted for while there are only two show houses and a few roads at the site.

Former police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri allegedly pocketed US$4 million collected as deposit fees for a housing scheme for 900 low-ranking police officers in Hatcliffe.

Chihuri is also accused of hijacking an upmarket housing scheme for top police officers in north-eastern Harare in its final phase, allocating himself three hectares on land earmarked for communal boreholes. He reportedly ordered land originally set aside for a hotel and a clubhouse to be subdivided and parcelled out to civilians.

The Land Commission chaired by Justice Tendai Uchena is recommending thorough investigations into the upmarket scheme, Police Heights Housing project at Gletywin Farm in Harare, concentrating on the third phase where the commission finds a lot could have gone wrong.

The planning and construction for this phase was approved without the mandatory involvement of the Environment Management Agency (EMA), the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and Government, a development viewed by the Land Commission as an irregularity that must be investigated by the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.

Many police bosses holding the rank of assistant commissioner and above-built mansions on the upmarket land during Chihuri’s tenure. Double-storey mansions dominate the leafy suburb, with some still under construction.

Chihuri reportedly influenced the subdivision of almost 6ha reserved for a hotel into five residential stands that were allocated to civilians, when the project was meant for members of the police and security services.

He allegedly asked for the change on the basis that more land was needed for his senior officers. A clubhouse stand measuring 2,6ha was subdivided into residential stands, yet it was once a recreational park and some stands are within the prohibited distance from a watercourse.

According to the report, Chihuri walled and gated the 3ha of land on which police had drilled eight boreholes for use by all residents. To that end, the commission has recommended that the Local Government ministry should investigate circumstances under which Chihuri appropriated the land.

The commission recommends that: “The Registrar of Cooperatives should cause audits of all financial records and general compliance with the Cooperative Societies’ Act by the Police Heights Housing Cooperative.”

The ministry, EMA and ZINWA should investigate and take corrective measures regarding the creation of stands in Phase 3 of the project, the commission said.

Officials in the Local Government ministry, the report said, who were involved in the approval of the layout plan and subdivisions, should also be investigated. The housing project for lower-ranking officers in Hatcliffe where about 900 people were allocated stands in 2011 next to ZRP High School is causing concern among members of the police force.

In terms of the housing deal, beneficiaries would get offer letters upon payment of US$4 500 through CABS, after which they would be entitled to a four-roomed cottage. Further developments would be at the individual owner’s expense.

Hundreds of officers paid the required initial payment, but they are still to get the houses. No construction has been taking place amid fears and allegations that Chihuri and some former senior police officers may have grabbed the US$4 million meant to develop the stands.

ZRP was allocated land in the area by the Ministry of Local Government for the development of a title-holding individual home ownership scheme for police officers.  Initial costs of servicing and building four rooms were done by both the ZRP and the building society.

A copy of one of the offer letters seen by The Herald recently reads: “Stand sizes range between 250 to 500 square metres. Once the mortgage terms and other preliminaries are concluded, beneficiaries will be asked to sign mortgage documentation. Cost details: US$17 623, 98. Total deposit US$4 473,00 and monthly instalments for 10 years of US$202,00. The amount paid as deposit will have a bearing on the level of instalments to be paid.”

The deposit payers wrote a letter to Chihuri through some senior police officers who were, by then, in-charge of the project but did not get any response. When The Herald visited the area recently, there were two show houses that were constructed in 2011 and a few roads.

The area is just before the ZRP High School and there is a billboard that is still erected at the area which is inscribed Zimbabwe Republic Police; CABS (financier); Old Mutual Property (project manager); Zimbabwe ZACE Engineers and CMN-YBJ (consulting engineers).

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