Wednesday 3 April 2024


Over four hundred civil servants from Matabeleland are crying foul after a property developer allegedly swindled them of the money they invested in the hope of getting residential stands.

The civil servants claim they have been paying US$50 per month since 2014, to River Valley Properties in Bulawayo, which is run by
Dr Smelinkosi Dube, and they had been advised that they would have full ownership of their residential stands after payments in ten years.

The civil servants, who are all under Mahlaba Housing Scheme Beneficiaries, said they had been promised that they would get 300 square meter stands at Lot 27a in Lower Rangemore.

They said the contract specified that if they would pay for at least three to six months, they would start building their houses while they finished paying off the balance.

The victims bemoaned that six months into the agreement, they were being told stories instead of receiving stands as specified in their contracts.

The victims went to River Valley Properties offices on Wednesday afternoon to hand over a petition demanding the delivery of their stands.

The members of staff at River Valley Properties locked themselves inside the premises, while the victims were made to wait outside for “someone” who would come to address them.

The petition was addressed to the President’s Office, Secretary of the Public Service Commission, Bulawayo Provincial Devolution Commissioner, Bulawayo Resident Minister, Resident Minister for Matabeleland North, and the Minister of Local Government, National Housing and Social Amenities.

In the petition, the victims cited that they were advocating for the allocation and delivery of their residential stands.

In an interview with CITE, the victims expressed frustration over the conduct of the company for playing hide and seek with them after receiving payments over the years.

“We are here because the time they had given us has lapsed. Most of us are now close to retirement. Where would we get more time to invest this much on houses? We started paying in 2014. They told us that a few months into payment we could start building, but ten years later, we are still being told stories,” a victim who identified as Sibanda said.

Another victim, Dube, who teaches in Tsholotsho, said she had made several trips to the offices but had not received any positive response.

“I am deeply disappointed by the conduct of this company. Imagine I had already told my children that soon we will be having our own house. But all we have been getting are lies. At first, we were taken to Cowdray Park, where we were allocated stand numbers. Later on in 2018, we were taken to Rangemore where we were given different stands. They said the ones we had been initially shown in Cowdray Park belonged to other people,” she said.

Another victim, who teaches in Victoria Falls said after being allocated stand numbers at Ramgemore, they continued getting stories about why they would not start developing their stands.

“Even after hearing all these stories, we decided to handle this like the professional people that we are. We decided to give them time to address us. All we ask for is to be addressed and be told the truth. Look at most of us here, we are close to retirement age. Most of us have between five to eight years left serving in the ministry,” she said.

“Which bank or financial institution would want to give us a mortgage or a loan at this age? We are too old. We can’t die without stands when we have been giving our money to someone and she has been using it to enrich herself. It’s not fair. We don’t even want to be refunded, we want our stands because we paid all that was due to her.”

The chairperson of the association, Tungamirai Mavhunda, said they had religiously paid their dues to the company and were disappointed that the company was failing to meet their end of the bargain.

“We never skipped any payments. At the beginning of the project we were paying our money, hard-earned money in United States Dollars. When the government changed, we also started paying in local currency, but all this while we were paying what was required of us and we paid it accordingly,” he said.

Mavhunda said they have engaged Dr Dube on several occasions and at some point she feigned ignorance about the association, claiming that she would engage the victims individually.

“It is disheartening that the company is failing to meet their end of the bargain. After being so patient with them while being told all these stories, the least they can do is deliver our stands. We don’t want to fight them. We believe in resolving issues amicably. This is the first time we are pushing for this, all because the time on the contract has lapsed. If they do not honor our request we will take the legal route, which was never our intention,” he said.

“Honestly for a group of people as large as civil servants, how do you even suggest engaging them on an individual capacity? It is practically impossible.”

The petition read that the civil servants received the call to join the housing scheme through the PSC.

“As civil servants we received a clarion call from the public service commission to join River Valley Properties housing scheme which we heeded, considering the current shortage of affordable housing stands has led to a housing crisis in our community,” the petition read.

“Our desired outcome is for River Valley Properties, local authorities and any other stakeholders involved to allocate and deliver our housing stands as per signed agreement. We want them to work hand in glove and cooperate with our committee to foster the delivery of our stands and to end the impasse of waiting 10 years for our stands. Communication must be clear, formal and understood.”

Efforts to get comments from Dr Dube and her employees at the Bulawayo office were fruitless. CITE


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