POLICE in Harare have arrested Harare City Council town planner Priscilla Charumbira on allegations of criminal abuse of office.
Charumbira, who is wife to president of the Chief’ Council Fortune Charumbira, is alleged to have irregularly changed land use plan for open spaces in Sunningdale and along Samora Machel Avenue and allocated the land to acolytes and friends at the expense of the public.
The lane in Sunningdale was bought by Metro Peech wholesale while service stations were set up on land along Samora Michel without change of land use from the Local Government and Public Works ministry sometime in 2016.
The Sunningdale land was reserved for recreational facilities, but was unprocedurally turned into a commercial zone. Charumbira was also accused of unprocedurally allocating an open space opposite Harare Quarry to one Chisvo.
Charumbira recently denied allegations that she unprocedurally changed land use plans for several open spaces in the capital, accusing fellow employees, already under probe, of spreading “malicious and blatant lies” in a ploy to stop her from being invited as a State witness.
“The allegations are all denied,” Charumbira told media recently. “These are malicious and blatant lies bent on tarnishing my professional image.
“This emanates from the fact that the investigators from the municipal police through the town clerk’s office and ZRP CID identified me as one of the people who can act as a credible expert witness on town planning standard operating procedures.”
She said she was not involved in the allocation of the Metro Peach Wholesale land and had no hand in the matter.
Charumbira said the land was sold to Tullabelle Investments represented by Andrew Sean Baker for US$517 000 and the agreement was signed by former acting town clerk Josephine Ncube and ex-mayor Bernard Manyenyeni.
She said the land plan was inspected and signed by Simon Nyabezi, who is already on remand.
“The record will show that the plans were approved during the time I had been re-assigned to the newly created position of land management and development manager.
“Therefore, it is strange how anyone can link their approval to me. It is also trite to note that all plans are approved by council first through council resolutions before the city planner can sign.”
According to the agreement of sale for the land, the three-hectare land was sold for US$517 000 and the agreement was signed by Manyenyeni, Ncube, Baker and four other witnesses.
The documents also showed that the layout plan was approved and signed by Nyabezi on September 15, 2016. Environment Management Agency (EMA) also issued a licence – number 8000042198 – on March 23, 2018 for the company to operate under the specified terms and conditions which expired on March 22, 2020.
On allegations of allocating two acres of land to herself, Charumbira said the land had not yet been allocated, but she had written to the council to lease part of it since her husband, Chief Fortune Charumbia’s transport business was expanding.
“The company’s application letter (was) stamped for receipt by the relevant finance department, the report to council recommending for lease is there, the council resolution approving the lease is there and the approved layout plan indicating that the land is for lease purposes only and as outlined in the permit the land will revert to its use when required for its use,” Charumbira said.
Several city council bosses that include former mayor Herbert Gomba and housing director Addmore Nhekairo, among others, were recently arrested for illicit land deals, including creating residential stands without the approval of the local authority.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said Charumbira will appear in court soon.