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Airport deal haunts Harare

By Tendai Kamhungira

A Mauritius-based company that was contracted to build the Airport Road has dragged the City of Harare to court demanding 40,5665 hectares of land as compensation and payment for the job to construct the controversial project, and in terms of the agreement between the two parties.

In its High Court application, Kenneth Sharpe’s Augur Investments OU (Augu) cited the City of Harare and Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere as respondents, and this is the second issue in which the parties have clashed in as many weeks.

According to the applicant, the trio entered into a  partnership in June 2008 for the upgrading of the road from the Harare International Airport to the intersection of Enterprise, and Robert Mugabe roads.

And when the agreements were hammered out, Augur was initially represented by Oleksandr Sheremet, Tendai Mahachi for the Harare City Council and Local Government’s Lazarus Chimba —and later Sharpe when the parties signed an addendum in October 2008.

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“The second defendant (Local Government ministry) signed the addendum as it was agreed by the parties thereto that he would assist the first defendant (Augur) by supplying State land to the first defendant to enable it to pay the plaintiff in terms of the agreement,” said.

“It was a material term of the contract that the plaintiff would be paid 90 percent for the work done in the form of land sourced by the first defendant from the second defendant,” the court heard.

According to its declarations, Augur says it had carried out all the necessary work in terms of the agreement and the total value of those projects were $3 042 489, 81.

“This translates to 40,5665 hectares of land in stand 654 Pomona Township which is identified . . . to the addendum as Borrowdale State land and has a value of $7,50 per square metre,” the company said.

Sharpe’s company says it had even presented invoices to the City of Harare’s director of works Phillip Pfukwa, who then directed the town clerk to effect payment in October 2014.

“Despite demand, defendant refuses to transfer 40,5665 hectares of suitable land to the plaintiff notwithstanding that the first defendant acknowledged that the plaintiff completed works with a monetary value equivalent to 40, 5665 hectares and further approved the payment which has not been effected to date,” the papers say.

“The payment is in the form of transferring land equivalent to the monetary value of the work done, being 40, 5665 hectares,” it said.

However, Bernard Manyenyeni’s council has not yet responded to the application, although it has entered an appearance to defend the matter.

Meanwhile, the dispute around a Pomona piece of land — forming part of the tripartite arrangement and compensation package for Sharpe’s company — is set to continue, as Kasukuwere’s ministry has signalled an intention to appeal a High Court order for a return of the 250-hectare property to the infrastructural investment firm.

This was after Justice Clement Phiri had ordered Chinese company XGMA and the Urban Development Corporation, among several respondents, to stop the unlawful parcelling of stands under 654 of Pomona Township, and that the applicant must be given “peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land”.

According to the recent ruling, Augur had amply demonstrated its ownership of the prime holding before the spoilation fracas, which also saw the respondents bring ordered to bear the costs of the lawsuit.

While Kasukuwere and his Local Government officials are holding out that the deal was corruptly concluded about seven or eight years ago, and Sharpe’s firm had been informed of the government’s intention to repossess its land after failing to complete the airport road, company director Mike van Blerk said:

“As per the court papers, it is clear that the factual and contractual position is that both the City of Harare and . . . Local Government owes Augur money in the form of land which . . . together with the Chinese had been carving up, and selling illegally and without prior knowledge or consent of Augur.

“The position . . . is that Augur is owed money for work done, certified and signed off by the City of Harare and the same land in dispute was paid to Augur for the compensation . .

“The contract went through many layers of approval including . . . council, Cabinet and Parliament (to give it) national project status,” he said, adding “the suggestion — some nine years later — that there were irregularities is absurd”.

“For the record, it was checked by the anti corruption Commission and . . . was all cleared.

“The city of Harare has not paid what it owes . . . and has failed to make satisfactory arrangements . . . and because of the three-year prescription period it became necessary for Augur to approach the courts,” Van Blerk said.

In the meantime, Sharpe has declined to comment on the issues, saying the matters were sub judice. Daily News