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Walter Magaya’s plot to seize ‘ownership’ of Chitungwiza exposed

Against a backdrop of numerous allegations of land scandals, sexual misconduct, fraud, false prophecy promises, tax evasions and a spate of other controversies, self-proclaimed prophet Walter Magaya is embroiled in another serious allegation — this time an attempt to literally steal the entire town of Chitungwiza.

The charismatic albeit controversial man-of-the-cloth has had an adventurous past beginning in his home town of Chitungwiza where allegations of shadowy activities including dramatic money changing escapades have refused to rub off his later day eminence.

Magaya has built for himself a massive empire under his Prophetic, Healing and Deliverance church in the past 12 years.

The kingdom is headlined by an upmarket in real estate too and is rumoured to own several gold mines.

All these allegations may have dented his reputation and put his pastoral credence in harm’s way, but it has done nothing to his empire, which has continued to expand.

He has continued to grow his influence as seen by his recent invite to President Emmerson Mnangagwa who turned up at his facility — Heart Stadium — which he officially opened, amid pomp and fanfare.

It is this ability to pull strings that bring royalty to his feet that keeps Magaya and others like him above the clouds and within reach of means of easy riches.

Magaya is said to have used such a proximity to power to push for this attempt at seizing control and ultimately ownership of Chitungwiza town.

The Chitungwiza saga has exposed deep-rooted political and boardroom power manoeuvres at the townhouse aided by corruption and manipulation of residents groups in what looked set to be one of the biggest local authority scandals to ever happen in the country.

It started as a mere donation

What started as a plain and innocent donation to the people of Chitungwiza last year turned out to be a covert grand plan to put the city and everything in it under the control of Wistmer Investments, a company owned by Magaya.

Truth Diggers, an Alpha Media Holdings investigative journalism unit, unearthed this scandal in a three-week investigation that took us to the town’s council chambers where councillors rose in alarm and anger upon realisation, at the nick of time, they had almost signed off the town to the prophet.

The investigations also included observations, leak inquiries and undercover interviews with representatives from residents’ associations, local authority workers and councillors.

“Magaya brought Chitungwiza councillors to his Waterfalls hotel sometime last year and presented his multi-pronged proposal where he would become the town’s key private partner, who would champion and own all major town projects,” a source at Chitungwiza Municipality told Truth Diggers.

“Councillors told him that while his idea sounded good, he needed to follow procedure, which involved presenting his proposal to council and management and wait for the decision of these two bodies.

“Magaya was apparently not happy with this kind of treatment as he expected his proposal to be embraced and rubber-stamped without much ado.”

The source said Magaya took the opportunity of Mnangagwa’s availability at the official opening of his facility — Heart Stadium — and rode roughshod on the councillors, accusing them of thwarting development and donations of public services in Chitungwiza.

“In response Mnangagwa dispatched his ministers — [then] Local Government Winston Chitando, Lands and Water Anxious Masuku and Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Affairs for Harare Metropolitan Charles Tawengwa to whip the councillors into line,” said the source.

“The councillors, however, stood their ground and told the ministers that Magaya wanted to cut corners and that they were not comfortable bequeathing the lives of millions of residents into the hands of one businessman. They insisted procedure needed to be followed and the law looked at.

“The ministers agreed with the councillors and Magaya had to go back to the drawing board and follow procedure.

“Magaya drafted a memorandum of agreement through his company, Wistmer Investments, which procedurally had to go through council and management technical teams for legal counsel.”

Second bite of the cherry

A leaked memorandum of agreement between Chitungwiza and Wistmer Investments, a copy of which is in possession of the Truth Diggers, seeks the establishment of a 10-year collaborative relationship between the two parties for preparation of the Chitungwiza masterplan.

“The parties acknowledge that Wistmer’s proposal and masterplan conceptualised the Chitungwiza Smart City vision, of which potential future projects and development initiatives will be constituent parts (Smart City Projects),” reads part of the memorandum of agreement.

“In recognition of Wistmer’s integral role, the municipality hereby grants to Wistmer an exclusive and irrevocable right of first refusal to participate as the lead private partner for any Smart City projects the municipality intends to implement and exclusive development rights to solely undertake Smart City Projects for an initial period of 10 years from the date of this agreement.

“If at any time the municipality wishes to proceed with a Smart City project, it shall provide written notice to Wistmer with details of the proposed project.

“Wistmer shall then have an exclusivity period of 120 days to exercise its right of first refusal by notifying the municipality of its interest in taking up the project and entering into negotiations to agree on the terms, commercial model and project-specific agreement under which Wistmer will implement the project.”

However, this did not go down well with residents, who felt betrayed by their councillors who are making such critical decisions without consulting them.

“While the idea was noble, the conditions attached by Wistmer Investments are not sincere and do not benefit the council, but the company,” said an insider at Chitungwiza Municipality.

“Ten years is a long time and I think this is not sustainable with a lot of similarities to the Geo Pomona deal in Harare?”

The Truth Diggers established that Chitungwiza Municipality is not interested in the deal, but sources said Wistmer Investments has been dangling the carrot in front of councillors and council workers, residents associations’ representatives and politicians of which some have since given the nod to the deal.

Magaya allegedly kept throwing Mnangagwa’s name in his push for the memorandum of agreement approval to a point where the town management felt threatened.

“Council then acted against advice from their technical team and instead of shelving the memorandum of agreement as advised, they pushed it through to the full council for final deliberation and approval,” said a source.

“Council reacted by confronting management over this unusual act and demanded to see management’s independent written response to the MOU proposal.

“They were furnished with the response, which was against the memorandum of agreement.”

Magaya is said to have offered US$300 000 to pay the consultant for the crafting of the masterplan, but councillors and some people in the management wanted him to pay that money directly to the local authority, the Truth Diggers established.

“I am told he even paid US$200 000 to the consultant, but the councillors and some workers would have none of it,” said the source.

Retracing his roots

After noticing that the deal was facing an imminent collapse, Magaya mobilised his childhood colleagues from Unit L in Seke, who include Goodwell Mafuratidze and Donald Makuvaza as well as Jonathan Masamba.

Mafuratidze is a losing Zanu PF candidate for Chitungwiza South constituency in the August 2023 general elections while Masamba and Makuvaza are leaders of the Chitungwiza Multi-stakeholder Forum (CMF) and the Chitungwiza Amalgamated Vendors and Informal Traders Association (CAVITA), respectively.

“In their capacities these people have been trying to mobilise the community to buy-in to the memorandum of agreement,” the source said.

“Makuvaza was the most vocal after that memorandum of agreement was leaked as he denounced it and he immediately called for a stakeholders meeting with the council.

“However, after meeting Magaya at his farm in Domboshava, he has since changed goalposts and is now supporting the memorandum of agreement in favour of Wistmer.”

The Truth Diggers is in possession of a letter dated April 8, 2024, which Makuvaza wrote to Chitungwiza Municipality urging them to “stop a resolution on the agreement with Wistmer Investments until consultation with all stakeholders”.

“Magaya says he has investors and the money is in the country waiting for council approval,” Makuvaza told the Truth Diggers.

“That memorandum of agreement was deliberately leaked by someone in council, who does not like the development of Chitungwiza.

“They want people to go against the idea of setting up of the master plan and develop Chitungwiza.”

A week ago, a stakeholders meeting was convened at Magaya’s facility, Yadah Hotel in Waterfalls, where Zanu PF youths mainly from Magaya’s hood, Unit L, constituted a large chunk of the audience and representatives from CMF, among others, sources said.

Members of Parliament Brighton Mazhindu (St Mary’s) and Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North) met Magaya earlier on before the stakeholders meeting, whose participants had been invited courtesy of CAVITA.

“I didn’t receive any money from Magaya and it’s prudent that councils are not run by MPs; why would I get money from Magaya if I cannot influence,” Mazhindu told Truth Diggers.

“Councillors are there to protect the interests of the people, so they should consult widely before making a decision on this memorandum of agreement.

“Magaya is coming in as an investor, a businessman and it’s up to the council to decide whether to entertain him or shut him out.”

Sources who attended the stakeholders’ meeting at Yadah Hotel last week on Friday said the gathering was just meant to coerce them into  supporting the memorandum of agreement.

“The media was not invited and certain organisations were not represented at all,” said a source.

“In that meeting Magaya said the memorandum of agreement was facing hurdles because councillors and managers wanted him to pay them monthly allowances of US$300 on top of buying each of them a kombi to approve it.

“It was more of a strategic meeting where it was agreed that CMF mobilises residents to protest against the council’s acting town clerk over his refusal of the memorandum of agreement.

“CMF does not have the numbers and residents were not even aware of that aborted protest. Maybe he was going to take those youths from Unit L.”

Game of deceit

Last Monday there was heavy police presence at Chitungwiza Municipality offices after reports of protests, despite the fact that CMF had notified the law enforcement agency.

“The persistent water scarcity in our area stays unresolved.

“Furthermore, the administration’s delay in entering into public-private partnership agreements, particularly regarding the Jonasi Aquifer project, exacerbates the situation.

“We urge swift action to alleviate this pressing issue,” read the CMF letter justifying the demonstrations.

However, a former Chitungwiza councillor who spoke on condition of anonymity sees it differently.

“The protesters wanted to misrepresent residents into believing that council is barring Magaya from providing them with water, but the contents of the memorandum of agreement is something else,” he said.

Residents said while part of the Chitungwiza masterplan was meant to ameliorate service delivery shortcomings, they are not gratified with the provisions of the memorandum of agreement.

“The position of our organisation on the proposed memorandum of agreement between Chitungwiza Municipality and Wistmer Investments is stinking as bad as the Geo Pomona Waste Management deal,” said Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association (Camera) director Marvellous Kumalo.

“We do not support daylight robbery.”

Kumalo said he was invited to represent Camera at the stakeholders meeting at the Yadah Hotel, but did not agree to the demands of Wistmer Investments.

Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association spokesperson Gift Kurupati said the memorandum of agreement was in bad faith.

“We are not against Wistmer Investments or any form of development in Chitungwiza, but we are saying things must be done transparently,” he said.

“On the issue of the masterplan, the council should advertise so that they can choose a competent company through abidding process.

“As of now, we say no to privatisation of Chitungwiza Municipality and if Wistmer Investments decided to donate whatever to council they must do it without conditions, they approached the council with dirty hands.”

Magaya could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a representative of Wistmer Investments Admire Mango said they were still negotiating with Chitungwiza Municipality and government.

“There was never any memorandum of agreement, which was rejected and remember boreholes were already drilled with US$19 million having been set aside to help Chitungwiza,” Mango said.

“Right now the prophet is in Kenya for a crusade, so I will update you when you draw up proper questions and you tell me the real help that you need.

“Ask the council again and they will give you a proper position because there was another meeting with all ministers involved and direction was given and for the record there was not even any memorandum of agreement to comment about.

“At 10am on Tuesday bring your note book at Yadah Hotel where I hope one council member or two would be present to give you the true position of every event not a one-sided story that aims to brand damage.

“Your intentions are not of a story, but of a side, hence you are not listening, but writing what you always wanted to write.

“You already had a headline in mind, but you are not trying to get the truth.”

Chitungwiza Municipality spokesperson Tafadzwa Kachiko said Wistmer Investments had expressed interest in investing in eight sectors and code-named this investment drive the Chitungwiza Smart and Green City Transformation Project.

“The projects cover waste management, water supply, markets, transport, light industry, infrastructure development, ICT perception, and town planning,” Kachiko said.

“On January 5, 2024, Chitungwiza and Wistmer signed a memorandum of understanding.

“Then, in terms of the masterplan, the two parties haven’t signed any memorandum of agreement as there have been issues that we were not in agreement on.

“The council convened a special meeting on April 8 where it resolved to reject the master plan memorandum of agreement draft because of conditions that had been set.

“We went back to the negotiating table, where the parties agreed to remove the contentious clause.”

Source | TheStandard


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