Smelly Dube, a property baron from the Midlands province and a former ally of the late ex-president, Robert Mugabe, has been arrested for the alleged illegal sale of state land.
Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, the police spokesperson, said the law enforcement agency and the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) on Wednesday arrested the Gweru-based Dube who owns River Valley Properties.
Dube was taken from a Gweru private medical facility where she had booked in on an undisclosed illness.
“Her arrest was done by our investigations unit and SACU. She is being charged with the illegal sale of state land. More details will be known when she appears in court either today or tomorrow,” he said.
Several land barons, among them a former cabinet minister, Ignatius Chombo, have been arrested in recent weeks for the illegal acquisition and sale of land.
A land commission chaired by Justice Tendai Uchena produced a nationwide report on the unauthorised sale of urban land in December 2019, but the study is being kept a secret.
The executive summary, though, accuses housing cooperatives, war veterans, businesspeople and politicians of having set up syndicates to steal public land worth billions.
At one time, Dube resisted appearing before the commission and approached the Bulawayo High Court to stop the hearing.
Previously, Dube had also used the courts to frustrate investigations into the River Valley deals.
She was considered powerful during Mugabe’s reign and allocated the first family a house in a controversial residential scheme in Gweru’s Woodlands Park suburb, which has an estimated 15,000-strong population.
In 2018, Information for Development Trust (IDT), a non-profit organisation supporting investigative reporting on public sector governance, collaborated with The Standard in a three-month probe that revealed how Dube had used her closeness to the Mugabe family to irregularly develop the sprawling Woodlands Park.
She dismissed the probe’s findings and threatened to sue The Standard for defamation, but her lawsuit fell through for lack of substance.
Woodlands Park was developed without the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), a position that the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) confirmed in our probe.
Some senior Gweru City Council employees who reportedly connived with River Valley were dismissed from work after the joint probe by IDT and The Standard.
The suburb is located close to a dumpsite that is now a health hazard to the residents.
Woodlands Park has been cynically referred to as “no man’s land” because, while it administratively falls under the rural Vungu jurisdiction, it is the urban Gweru municipality that offers civic services to the suburb.
Dube had on Tuesday approached the Bulawayo High Court once again seeking an order to bar the police from arresting her.
She then turned in at a private hospital in Gweru where she was admitted for an undisclosed illness but that did not deter the law enforcers from raiding her.