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Harare Taxpayers Move to Block House Sale to Commission Chairwoman

Taxpayers who want to block the sale of a house in the posh Highlands section of the capital to Harare Commission Chairwoman Sekesai Makwavarara for a fraction of its value are stepping up action following news she made a deposit on the deal.

Reports said Makwavarara made a Z$1.4 million ($US5,600) down-payment last week on the property. The payment was regarded by many as a tactical move in a battle to conclude the sale that will be decided by a committee her commission appointed.

Critics including he Combined Harare Residents Association have objected to the sale because the house on Reinfontein Close has an estimated market value of Z$13.75 million but is proposed for sale to Makwavarara for just Z$5.5 million dollars.

The basis for such a deeply discounted sale is the so-called “standing resolution” that the Harare City Council passed in the days before 2002 when it was controlled by the ruling Zanu-PF party. The government installed the commission in 2004, setting aside an MDC mayor and most of the capital's elected city council.

Former Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri, now a top official in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by party founder Morgan Tsvangirai, said the value of such a municipal property, and the discounted price, should be set by the elected council, in the absence of which the sale to Makwavarara should not go through.

Residents have until September 13 to make known their objections to the sale.

Opponents of the sale include the ZANU-PF Harare provincial party. Its spokesman, William Nhara, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party also wants to dissolve the commission and hand local government back to an elected council once the Makwavarara housing saga has been resolved.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...