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MDC-T MP and residents seek order to stop construction of Prophet Makandiwa chapel on illegal land

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The construction of a multi-million-dollar 30 000-seater chapel in Chitungwiza by Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa's United Family International Church is in danger after an MDC-T politician and some residents sought a court order to stop the work.

Zengeza East legislator Mr Alexio Musundire and some residents are arguing that the land on which the church is being built was acquired illegally. Mr Musundire, who is an applicant in the lawsuit, claims he is acting on behalf of people in his constituency.

UFI is developing stands 19769 and 19722 Chitungwiza Township near Chitungwiza Town Centre in Seke while businessman Mr Frederick Mabamba is building tuckshops at stand number 23148.

In an application brought to the High Court under a certificate of urgency on Monday, UFI, Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo, Chitungwiza Town Council and Mr Mabamba are listed as respondents.

The MP and some residents, in their application, also claim that council flouted the Urban Councils Act in allocating the stands to UFI. Mr Musundire is also seeking to bar Mr Mabamba from building tuckshops on land earmarked for a shopping mall.

Mr Musundire argues that council did not follow laid down procedure in selling, leasing or donating the land to the church and the businessman.

 He wants council interdicted from approving any plans or construction on the disputed land while UFI and the businessman should be stopped from further developing the properties pending determination of a normal court application he filed in July this year.

In the July application, Mr Musundire, who was not aware of the parties allocated the disputed property, sued council over the issue. He issued summons seeking a declaration that the transaction was unlawful and its immediate cancellation. The matter is still pending.

According to the papers forming the current urgent chamber application, Mr Musundire knows the land was allocated to the two parties for development but he is not sure if the land was sold, donated or leased to UFI and Mr Mabamba.

 "What has necessitated this application is that the first respondent (council) has not taken any steps to stop illegal developments in the area despite the court challenge filed midyear.

"Council breached its statutory duty and failed to comply with requirements of section 152 of the Urban Councils Act in that it sold, exchanged, leased, donated or otherwise disposed of or permitted the use of land owned by it to individuals without complying with requirement of the law.

"First defendant (council) failed to comply with section 84 (6) and 88 of the Act, requiring the local authority to pass a resolution and make available for inspection at all reasonable times such minutes of proceedings authorising it to deal with the land concerned," he said.

It was stated that the intention to allocate the stands in question was never published as required by the law.

 "I have a well-grounded fear that the lack of action on the part of the first respondent (council) will result in harm to residents of Chitungwiza who will be prejudiced. The land is being dealt with in a murky and slop-shod manner, which is quite contrary with the dictates of the law and good governance," he said.

The application, according to Mr Musundire, also served to protect UFI and Mr Mabamba who might have spent substantial amounts of money on the unlawfully-acquired land. Harare lawyer Mr Norman Bvekwa of Bvekwa Legal Practice, who usually represents Chitungwiza Municipality, said he had not yet received a copy of the application.

"My office has not yet received that application. Maybe it is on its way or the client has asked other lawyers to handle it," he said.

UFI lawyers could not be reached for comment last night

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