WE make reference to grossly misleading media reports that have repeated, without due journalistic consideration, false and inflammatory remarks by Mr. Tendai Biti, the Honourable
Member of Parliament representing Harare East.In addition to having no basis in truth, these claims are also cruel and ill-intentioned.
For instance, Mr. Biti claimed that the City of Harare extended to Mr. Kenneth Raydon Sharpe in excess of 200,000 hectares of land. This was among several outrageous falsehoods cooked up to stir up negative public sentiment.
The claim is preposterous hyperbole and should not have escaped editorial scrutiny. Harare is only 94,000 hectares, a fact which exposes the claim as a malicious lie concocted by a clumsy imagination. The actual land size in question is 270 hectares.
Mr. Biti proceeded to accuse Mr. Sharpe of the largest land theft in Zimbabwe since the country’s independence from white settler rule, despite knowing that the accusation was false. The incendiary language had racial overtones and was intended to generate a negative public opinion of Mr. Sharpe. Regrettably, these remarks have been repeatedly published despite their obviously fictitious foundation.
Mr. Biti went on to misrepresent the facts surrounding Augur Investments’ dispute with the City of Harare, suggesting that it had been plundered of land in a corrupt rampage masterminded by Mr. Sharpe. The City of Harare fulfilled its legal obligations to Augur Investments, as mandated by the courts following a contractual dispute between the parties. The dispute arose after several contractual violations related to the city’s failure to fulfil its obligations in a timely and competent manner.
These egregious failures are documented in court-accessible public records and are not contested by the City of Harare. Specifically, these failures involve the tendering of unzoned land unfit for the stated purpose of commercial development. This unzoned land was irresponsibly given as consideration in a commercial transaction which Augur entered into in good faith.
Instead of swiftly resolving these failings to allow work to proceed as planned, the City of Harare took an inordinate amount of time to take remedial action. Instead of recognizing Augur’s good faith in trying to salvage the agreement, by not enforcing its rights, despite several material and egregious violations, the city shockingly sought to prejudice the company by holding it responsible for failures the city had itself occasioned. Accordingly, Augur exercised its rights in a firm response.
This is a straightforward contractual dispute that has been litigated to its natural conclusion, having been settled by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe.
Instead of casting casual aspersions to support his ludicrous claims of plunder by corruption, Mr. Biti should present a coherent explication of his objections to the manner in which the judiciary handled this matter.
He has none. Mr. Biti cannot purport to contest the findings and determinations of the High Court and Supreme Court, as expressed in HC 425/21 and SC 229/22, without providing specific objections to those rulings, which upheld our title to the
Pomona property in question. The Supreme Court’s ruling against Mr. Biti’s clients was unequivocal.
The absence of a legal justification for his continued harassment of our company suggests that his only objective is to generate negative news coverage at the expense of our commercial interests. This appears to be an effort to divert public attention away from his unacceptable behaviour
toward our executive, Tatiana Aleshina, whom he verbally abused without provocation in November 2020 at the Harare
Magistrates’ Court. Ms. Aleshina had attended court representing West Property in a case in which George Katsimberis had illegally built on the company’s land, having unlawfully secured permits from corrupt elements inside the local authority. That matter is still pending before the courts.
Mr. Biti’s verbal assault on our executive occurred exclusively in the context of those proceedings. Mr. Biti accuses Mr. Sharpe of corruption, despite the fact that he was the one who defended George Katsimberis, who had corruptly obtained permits, as demonstrated in court. Indeed, the corrupt Harare City official who issued the aforementioned permits is currently on the run from the police, who wish to question him on suspicion of criminal abuse of office.
Far from being political, this is a case about a bully who has gotten away with lies and intimidation and expects everyone else to just take it. We have no intention of surrendering to these jungle tactics. Instead, we will be taking action to expose and hold Mr. Biti accountable for his conduct.
Mr. Biti wishes to divert public attention by feigning outrage over fictitious acts of corruption, despite knowing full well that the contractual matters he claims to be in dispute were settled
by the Supreme Court and that he failed to challenge them in any meaningful way.
All this is by design. Mr. Biti knows that Mr. Sharpe did not receive 200,000 hectares of land from the City of Harare. He knows Harare is only 94,000 hectares in size. He knows that the matter was settled by the
Supreme Court and has nothing to do with the charges he is facing. He is cynically manipulating public opinion in a manner that betrays gross disrespect for the intelligence of the public.
While his conduct is unusual for a man occupying the political position he enjoys in society, it is completely unheard of and thoroughly unbecoming of a learned legal practitioner.
In accordance with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe’s Code of Conduct and journalistic ethics, we expect the media to investigate these matters thoroughly, establish the facts prior to publication, and obtain our side of the story. We are open to robust engagement but have inexplicably been repeatedly denied the right of reply. The propagation of these falsehoods has a negative bearing on our business interests, and we urge our partners in the media to exercise appropriate caution.
Mr. Biti intends to muddy the waters by baiting journalists with sensational but false claims, knowing that they will be repeated without verification. It would be unfortunate if the media rewarded his contemptuous behaviour.
END OF STATEMENT
Public Relations Manager
+263 71 872 1977