Mayor stalled development: Mbetsa

Manicaland Provincial Administrator, Fungai Mbetsa, has accused former Mutare Mayor, Brian James, of stalling development in the city.

Addressing journalists at the Mutare Press Club last week, Mbetsa said the continuous “political bickering” by James over the sale of the Meikles Park stand was “inappropriate” and had turned away potential investors.

“Mutare City Council was supposed to benefit from that land sale. The Chinese had offered to buy and develop a 14 storey multimillion dollar building that was meant to be a shopping mall and a hotel, but Brian James’s bad mouth politics turned away the investors.” “The people of Mutare were going to benefit from the project as there were jobs to be created.

Development stalled

The council was also going to benefit in terms of revenue, but Brian James stalled such development, arguing that it was a Zanu (PF) initiative.”

It is alleged that the Chinese firm wanted to buy land at Meikles Park for $160, 000 and intended to build a14 story hotel and shopping mall.

Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, ordered Mutare City Council to give first priority to a Chinese company, Anjin Investments, in exchange for state land that the council would get from the government.

It is then alleged that James led his MDC-T dominated Mutare City councillors to pass a resolution not to sell the land to the Chinese.

“James started writing letters in the newspapers about the Meikles Park stand saying the issue was politicised and at the same time arguing that all land was being given to the Chinese cheaply. So, the Chinese chickened out and Mutare lost a potential investor who was going to develop our city,” added Mbetsa.

Losing out to Harare

Mbetsa said the Chinese shifted their focus to Harare and are building the project near the National Sports stadium.

“That project was supposed to be built in Mutare, but we lost it to Harare,” he said.

James responded by saying the council had agreed to sell the land to Anjin Investments for $ 1.7 million, as this was considered the market value by council evaluators.

“Subsequent meetings were held between the Manicaland Provincial Administrator (Mbetsa), councillors and management where the price that was offered by Anjin Investments ($160, 000) was rejected,” said James.

The former mayor said the council received a letter from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Kalian Mupingo, stating that the government had identified Meikles Park for development in the national interest and that council should hand it over forthwith.

State land available

“We held a meeting with Minister Chombo who said the council should not worry as plenty of state land would be made available to us, even as much as 400 hectares,” James explained.

He said his council resolved to release the land for $1.7m.

“It was then agreed that Meikles Park would remain a facility for the benefit of the population at large,” said James.

Churches are how using the land for crusades and other public events.

Chombo suspended James on January 27, 2012 over gross mismanagement of affairs of the council in contravention of section 114(1)(d)(ii) of the Urban Councils Act.

However, James believes his suspension from council was a
political move to block the auditing of illegal land sales.

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