Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » 240 Duped in Land for Cash Scandal

At least 240 land-hungry people — some of them based in the Diaspora — say they lost huge sums of money to a syndicate involving former Zanu-PF councillor for Mayo in Makoni District, Cde James Munetsi, who promised to assist them acquire farms and plots.Sources say the Makoni District case might be a tip of the iceberg as indications are that thousands of aspiring farmers could have fallen victim to syndicates involving Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement officials and politicians countrywide.

Investigations by The Herald revealed that in some provinces, lands officers were demanding up to US$2 000 to facilitate land allocation.

Lands Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora confirmed receiving such reports and the ministry was investigating.

A local church, Faith in God Ministries (FIG), fell victim to the alleged scam as it emerged that more than 200 of its members — including Pastor William Freza and his family — paid Cde Munetsi to get land allocations.

Cde Munetsi has allegedly blocked communication with his hundreds of victims, after claiming he could influence land allocation for fees that sometimes ran into thousands of dollars.

Contacted for comment recently, Cde Munetsi was evasive.

“I cannot talk to you about those issues over the phone,” he said.

The Diasporan victims, mainly in the United Kingdom, allegedly sent varying sums to FIG via Money Gram and Western Union for onward transmission to Cde Munetsi.

One of the victims (who preferred anonymity) said he and his colleagues in the UK lost around US$50 000 in their quest to access arable land.

“I was promised 145 hectares and I paid US$1 850. They were charging people US$200 per every 15 hectares. However, I telephoned the chief lands officer (in Makoni District), a Mr Chitida, who said ‘We don’t charge for land allocations, once recommended you are given an offer letter or a permit, presently you pay levies to rural council at a rate of US$3 per hectare. Ministry of Lands is not yet taxing land, though it’s our future plan’.”

Mr Chitida refused to comment referring all the questions to Makoni provincial lands officer Mr Nixon Kutsaranga, who in turn directed The Herald to Makoni district administrator, Mr William Mashava.

Mr Mashava could not be reached for comment before and during the holidays.

Pastor Freza said at least 200 church members lost money to Cde Munetsi, but was against publication of story or making a police report as they sought their own avenues of recouping the cash.

“I also lost US$800, my wife US$600 and my son US$200. We are yet to report the matter to the police because we still think we can pursue other means to get our money back,” he said.

Pastor Freza said Cde Munetsi had delivered on past projects.

“We got a school in Makoni Mayo, Rusununguko Primary School, which we are running right now, through his assistance. We are actually building a secondary school on that land.

“Some of these people in the diaspora including our relatives have been enquiring through the church about the latest and we ended up giving them Munetsi’s phone number so that they interact with him. It appears he has changed numbers after facing pressure from the people demanding their money,” said Pastor Freza.

Dr Mombeshora said some cunning people were abusing names of senior Government officials to claim they could influence land allocations.

“I heard about this last week from a friend whose relative was about to be conned by the same people. When I heard about the name councillor Munetsi I thought he was from Harare and I was confused because I have never heard about such a name in Harare.

“The person I heard of is said to have been promised 20 hectares for US$200. So when she came, she was told the only land that was left was for US$800 because there was a farm house on it,” he said.

The minister warned people against paying for any land allocations.

“I have sent people to investigate so that we find out what is happening there. If there is anyone affected, let them come to us so that proper investigations are carried out.”

Zanu-PF Manicaland provincial chairman Ambassador John Mvundura said the matter was of serious concern to the party and his office was probing the matter.

“Had we known it, we would have summoned the person. If we get people who can witness the matter, then we will take up the matter from there,” he said.

Source : The Herald