By Tendai Kamhungira
Businessman and former chairperson of a commission which once ran the affairs of the City of Harare, Michael Mahachi — has approached the High Court seeking to gain freedom — after he was denied bail by the Magistrates’ Court at the weekend.
Mahachi who was chairperson of the commission between 2006 and 2013 was arrested and charged with criminal abuse of office.
His lawyer, Misheck Hogwe, said his client had appealed to the High Court yesterday after magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa remanded him in custody to November 30.
Mahachi, 66, is accused of corruptly contracting his company to manage the $80 million Airport Road rehabilitation project.
According to court papers, the complainant is the City of Harare represented by town clerk Hosiah Chisango.
The court heard that the offence was committed when Mahachi was appointed a commissioner by then Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo.
It is alleged that on May 21, 2008, the City of Harare entered into a memorandum of understanding with a then unregistered Augur Investments (company) to upgrade the Airport Road.
Mahachi reportedly entered into another memorandum of understanding with the same company, on May 30, 2008.
According to court papers, the directors of Augur Investments were registered as Kenneth Sharpe and Michael van Blerk.
The court heard the project was valued at $80 million and the terms of the agreement were that City of Harare was to provide pieces of land and service materials equivalent to 90 percent of the project value and that 10 percent of project value was to be paid to Augur Investments in cash at the prevailing exchange rate.
The project was allegedly divided into four phases and was to be completed by 2010.
The parties further agreed that the title deeds of the pieces of land in Gunhill were to be held in trust by Coghlan Welsh and Guest.
It is the State’s case that Mahachi corruptly caused his company, Classique Project Management, to manage the project without disclosing to his principal, the Local Government minister, that he had a personal interest and was one of the directors.
It is further alleged that Classique Project Management was paid for its management services by the City of Harare, but Augur Investments did not complete the project despite having been paid in full.
The City of Harare suffered an actual prejudice in the form of the land that was transferred to Augur Investments valued at over $80 million, the court heard.
Mahachi is also accused of corruptly awarding the contract to Augur Investments without going to tender.
Augur Investments was registered in Zimbabwe three years after being awarded the contract, the court was told.
According to court papers, Augur Investments had no capacity to carry out the project, hence government’s decision to withdraw and hand it over to the Department of Roads. DailyNews