Murky deal exposes ED ally

Prominent gold dealer and an associate of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Pedzisai “Scott” Sakupwanya is embroiled in a controversial land deal with the Victoria Falls council that could result in the collapse of one of Zimbabwe’s biggest tourism service providers, investigations have revealed.
Sakupwanya is a Zanu PF councillor in Harare and has been photographed with Mnangagwa at private occasions.
His BetterBrands Jewellery firm is accused of influencing the MDC Alliance -controlled Victoria Falls City Council to relocate Wild Horizons from a profitable commercial property it has been operating from for 25 years to pave way for construction of a luxurious hotel by the politician.
Documents gleaned by The Standard show that Wild Horizons was instructed by town clerk Ronnie Dube on December 30, 2022 to vacate stand number 1392A where it operates a boat landing stage, known as a jetty after Sakupwanya’s firm applied to buy the land.
The property, now at the centre of a fierce dispute, has been leased by Wild Horizons from Victoria Falls City Council for over two decades.
In his correspondence to Wild Horizons, Dube did not explicitly specify that the local authority wanted to dispose of the property but only indicated that: “council wants to utilise 1392A for other purposes…”
Responding to Dube’s letter, Wild Horizons corporate affairs and business development director Barbra Murasiranwa objected to Dube’s decision to terminate the firm’s contract and relocate to another site.
Murasiranwa’s correspondence to Dube dated January 30 highlighted that “should stand 1392A now be available for purchase from council,” Wild Horizons should be given the right of first refusal as the sitting tenant to buy the lucrative asset.
In another set of documents seen by The Standard, Sakupwanya’s Betterbrands Jewellery in May last year submitted an application to Victoria Falls City Council to purchase the commercial stand currently occupied by Wild Horizons.
The application has been approved.
The murky transaction and agreement between BetterBrands Jewellery and Victoria Falls has lifted the veil on how political elites are circling above the resort destination to swoop its prime assets using undue influence and disregarding investor rights.
Wild Horizons is owned by a consortium of local and foreign investors.
Minutes of a meeting held by the council’s health, housing and community services committee generated on January 16 this year reveal that the local authority discussed BetterBrands Jewellery’s application to acquire stand number 1392A for the purpose of building a high-end hotel and wellness facility.
“The department received an application by BetterBrands Jewellery in May 2022 to purchase stand Number 1392A Victoria Falls Township of Victoria Falls Township Lands for the development of a hotel and wellness centre,” excerpts of the minutes from the meeting which was also attended by City Mayor Somvelo Dhlamini read.
“Stand Number 1392A is a council stand that has, for all along, been reserved for use and access to the river (Zambezi) by the general public as it is the only remaining piece of land with river access at the hands of council.”
As the minutes show council had no intention to dispose of the commercial stand in question since it also acts as a passage for wildlife.
 The local authority was convinced by BetterBrands Jewellery to relocate Wild Horizons so that Sakupwanya’s firm could implement its plans, the minutes indicate.
BetterBrands Jewellery committed to incur costs associated with relocating Wild Horizons.
“Council deliberately gave a long lease in advance to…Wild Horizons that expires in 2029 because it had no intention of selling it as the area also acts as an animal corridor,” the minutes read.
“This was communicated to the applicant (BetterBrands Jewellery), who in turn proposed that the current lease be moved to an alternative site and the applicant assists council with relocation expenses.”
Subsequently, city fathers agreed that “council sells the land so long as the lessee is given an option to relocate to an alternative site as they had paid in advance and preparatory costs will be borne by…BetterBrands Jewellery.”
City officials who attended the meeting also agreed that there was a need to engage land valuers to determine the net worth of the asset after approving to dispose of it to BetterBrands Jewellery.
Dube, the town clerk, said there was nothing untoward about the land deal arguing that the local authority wants to bring development to the resort town.
“Wild Horizons does not have any land.
“That stand belongs to the council,” Dube told The Standard.
“Council intends to relocate Wild Horizons to an appropriate piece of land so that we allow for development and bring jobs to the locals, and there is no way Wild Horizons is prejudiced.
“It is the council position that the said land must be developed.
“We cannot have Wild Horizons being an obstacle to that initiative.”
Dube accused Wild Horizons of bullying.
“They are using unorthodox means to coerce the council to change its view.
“They even bussed people to come and disrupt council operations,” Dube said.
“They also claimed that they are connected to the president (Mnangagwa).
“We cannot be intimidated by that kind of name dropping…
“Also, it is not true that we are giving the land to Sakupwanya. At the moment, we cannot disclose the name of the applicant.”
Sakupwanya, who is the councillor for Mabvuku (Ward 21) upon being quizzed over the nature of the transaction and agreement between BetterBrands Jewellery and Victoria Falls City Council said that he had no comment.
The Standard established that the Victoria Falls City Council did not file a public notice declaring its intentions to sell stand number 1392A.
However, upon giving BetterBrands Jewellery the green light to acquire the property, the city resolved to inform residents and the public of its decision.
“It is, therefore, recommended the allocation (of stand 1392A to BetterBrands) be advertised in terms of Section 152(2) of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter29:15),” excerpts generated from the meeting held on January 16 this year read. The piece of land measures about 9 000 square metres.
Wild Horizons declined to address questions posed by The Standard.
As stated on its website, BetterBrands Jewellery, a subsidiary of BetterBrands: “is a leading Pan-African gold mining and trading company with a vast network of small to medium-sized gold mines in Zimbabwe.” _*Standard*_

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