FORMER Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) director-general Oniyas Gumbo is embroiled in a messy row with a local investment company whose land he allegedly fraudulently claimed ownership of.

By Desmond Chingarande

The land at the centre of the dispute is the remainder of Stuhm Farm in Goromonzi, which was owned by Time Bank Investment Company (TBIC) before it was repossessed by the government.

TBIC, which owned the now-defunct Time Bank, wrote a letter dated June 16 to the Land Commission and copied it to Lands minister Perrance Shiri complaining against some officials of the commission whom it claimed were complicit in the land dispute.

The company claimed that Gumbo had misrepresented to the commission knowing fully well that the land had belonged to TBIC for the past 22 years.

It complained that the Land Commission did not give them an opportunity to respond to allegations by Gumbo before it made a decision to recommend the repossession to the minister.

“I hereby lodge a complaint against the unlawful conduct by some officials of the commission … in terms of principles of natural justice or the audi alteram partem (listen to the other side) rule. It is a legal requirement that the commission should have given us our right to respond to such allegations before it made a decision to recommend to the minister,” TBIC said in the letter.

There was a real risk that the commission would mislead the minister into “making a wrong decision to give this property to Gumbo when he was not the rightful owner”, it added.

The company also provided a historical account of what has happened to the piece of land when it was acquired during the late former President Robert Mugabe’s government and insisted that should the “new dispensation” decide to return the property, it must be returned to TBIC.

Gumbo, it argued, was seeking to exploit a recent legal concession that dispossessed owners could apply to the State for a repossession of their land.

“If the commission had given us our right to respond, we could have told them that Gumbo once made the same allegations before 2011, and we objected strongly to his claims, resulting in disputes, including civil and criminal cases,” TBIC said.

Gumbo and TBIC had a dispute over properties, which was resolved when the firm paid him US$2,6 million in an out-of-court settlement.

“The then Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana mediated in the matter at the request of Gumbo and this resulted in an out-of-court settlement. There were actually two related such agreements around these matters and which were signed before a commissioner of oaths,” the company said.

“Gumbo tried to cancel one of them, but was unsuccessful and each of the two settlement agreements can be enforced separately with the same effect. To date, the two settlement agreements are still in force.

“We agreed to such a payment on the grounds that Gumbo shall not make any further claims on our companies, including the Stuhm property.”

“In case the above unlawful conduct was not done by your officials without your knowledge, it is necessary to give you an opportunity to correct (acts). We, therefore, request the land commission to withdraw such unlawful letter or statements.”

Repeated efforts to get a comment from Gumbo over the past two weeks were futile.

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