Harare City Council boss in soup over property fraud

HARARE – A former Harare City Council top employee Wednesday appeared in court charged with criminal abuse of office after he illegally approved a building plan for controversial land developer George Katsimberis in 2017.

The local authority’s former Chief Building Inspector Roy Nyabvure, 64, appeared before magistrate Taurai Manuwere who remanded him in custody to Thursday for bail application.

Prosecuting, Lancelot Mutsokoti alleges Nyabvure single-handedly approved the building plan which was supposed to pass through various offices before approval.

Court papers show that on February 23, 2017 Nyabvure, without following set rules, approved a building plan for stand number 19559 Harare Township known as 19559 Cnr. Teviotdale and Whitwell Road.

The plan had been submitted directly to him at Cleveland House by Katsimberis, who was a construction partner at one of Pokugara Properties (Pvt) Ltd sites owned by Kenneth Raydon Sharpe.

It is State’s case that this was contrary to the City of Harare’s procedure which required that plans be submitted through respective District Offices.

According to Mutsokoti, Katsimbires went on to present the approved plan to Pokugara Properties, misrepresenting that it had been duly approved.

“Acting on this misrepresentation, Pokugara Properties went on to sanction the building of a house on the said stand,” said the National Prosecuting Authority.

Court heard that after the completion of the building, Pokugara Properties was served with a notice of demolition by City of Harare because the building was erected without an approved plan and had been built using material not approved by the local authority.

The notice, dated 26 July 2018, according to court documents, demanded that the structure be demolished by the 30″ of August 2018 and further notified them that financial penalties would be meted against the company for its alleged wrongful actions.

The company complied with the directive of the city and demolished the structure.

Prosecutors allege the demolition caused serious reputational and administrative prejudice to the company, prompting them to embark on an investigation to establish the circumstances surrounding the approval of the plan with a view to ascertaining if the plan had indeed been approved by HCC.

“In pursuit of this objective, they allegedly wrote to the City of Harare enquiring the status of the plan in contention.”

They also enquired about standard procedure on plan approval.

It is alleged that on June 26, 2019, City of Harare responded in writing to the company’s request, indicating that the procedure of plan circulation was not followed as the approval was done before the circulation of the plan.

On July 8, 2019, City of Harare wrote to Pokugara Properties reiterating that the plan was unprocedurally approved, by-passing the standard procedures and that the plan was null and void as it was none-existent in their system, court papers show.

Nyabvure was named as the culprit behind the unprocedural processing of the plan.

On 23 August 2022, the matter was reported to the police and on 28 September 2022, a procedural statement was obtained from City of Harare which confirmed that Nyabvure had abused his powers as a public officer.

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