SOUTHLEY PARK PRIMARY SCHOOL WRANGLE
By Killian Butu (own correspondent)
Philip Chiyangwa and parents of children attending Southlea Primary School are locked in an ownership wrangle over the school, a spillover of the wrangle over the ownership of Southlea Park.
The parents want the school which has 10 classrooms and an enrolment of 2000 pupils, to be a government school and has been registered as a private school.
This may see the children at the school being disadvantaged as private schools usually demand higher fees than government schools.
The parents and community are incensed after the school development committee ( SDC), registered the school, without the parents’ consent, as a private school owned by Senzeni consortium led by businessman tycoon, Phillip Chiyangwa.
The issue came to head at the extraordinary general , AGM, meeting called by the SDC recently and was attended by parents and over 1000 other residents.
The parents were incensed after Dr. Chiyangwa paid a visit to the school and informed those present that the school was his property.
The parents who were at the AGM said the school community property was built by residents using their own contributions and they want the school to be handed over to the government.
One of the parents at the school, Archford Musukuma added that the documents presented by the SDC at the meeting proved that the school was registered as a private school.
“We long suspected that the school was being privatised after we received information that the school had a board of trustees. We decided as parents at the school that we could not have such a board which we did know about because the school is ours.
“But today after seeing documents showing that the school was a private and we want to go to the Ministry of Education so that they can clarify if it is true they received documents indicating that Southlea Primary school is a private school and we want to know in whose name it is registered.”, Musukuma explained.
Musukuma said the residents only learnt about the board of trustees from former district education officers who said some people had visited their offices and claimed they were members of the board of trustees from Southlea primary school. They also said another group visited ministry of education offices claiming they were the board of trustees representing companies of the consortium at the school.
“We suspected that the so called board of trustees were individuals intent on having the school as a private school so that they could pocket proceeds from the school.
“We never saw or met these people but we only heard about them. We wrote letters to the ministry of education and to the former member of parliament of the area, Shadreck Mashayamombe, complaining about the issue because no committee had been elected at the school” he said.
Documents read at the extraordinary general meeting held at the school on July 27, 2019, indicated that in 2013, the residents decided that they should have a school for their children and resolved that the parents should pay a levy of $100 per child. The parents would pay an installment of $50 by the end of 2013 and the balance to be paid by the 2014.
There were no donations from the anyone towards the construction of the school and the school was built through the efforts of the parents only, they said.
However, a letter was written by the ministry of education confirming the handover of the school to Senzeni Consortium stating that the school is located on a ” no-man’s land”.
Senzeni consortium is said to be led by Chiyangwa.
The chairman of the school development committee, Norest Kamurero said “The school is being built by the community so it is a community school but registration of a school is a process and we are spearheading the process and as far as we are concerned we are registering this school and we are spearheading the registration of this school.”
Commenting on the issue of registration of the school under Chiyangwa, Kamurero said “This is highly impossible, why? Because here we are talking about a process that is being carried out between us and the ministry of education and as a result there is no way one individual can come in and knock at the office of the ministry and say now I want to take the school and it’s now mine. So everything from the beginning has been done above board.
“The only misconception is that people are mixing issues .”
Kamurero explained how the school was registered as a private school “We and the consortium we are in the process of registering the school and its a process until we are satisfied all the papers are in order then we can say we have finished registering the school.
“When we were registering the school, we never said it was a private school.
“We have always shown that this school is being built by parents and automatically it is being built by the community and the community are the people of Southlea park who are paying their money for the construction of the school.
“The outcome of the registration certificate that states that it is a private school is an anomaly to us the parents. That’s why we wrote to the ministry indicating the school is not a private school.
“The ministry states the owners of the school are the consortium. Consortium simply means the representatives of all the residents of Southlea park.
“We as residents of Southlea Park saw we had a responsibility to build the school because we have children who need to go to school. So we decided to build our own school.
“In the process mistakes can happen and these can be corrected. This is what we are doing.”
Before building commenced at the new school, children used to attend lessons from former tobacco barns in the area.
Musukuma, a parent at the school said “When I came to Southlea Park there was no school. What we did was to demolish some old tobacco barns. Then parents contributed 20 dollars so that we could get a place for our children’s education.
“After some time, we realized that the place was small so we decided that we should build a proper school since there were places designated for schools. We managed to site this place because there was a borehole.”
He says the consortium leadership do not attend school related meetings because they have nothing to do with the school.
The vice chairperson of Southlea Park Homeowners Association, Evelyn Chamisa,voiced her concern.
She said “the problems in the middle of the issue is ownership of the land of Southlea Park which then triggers the issue of who owns the school. And also the issue of the school being privatised.”
“The way I see the issue, the school is private and we have evidence now since we saw registration documents stating that the school was registered as a private school.
“But we are saying how come the school is registered as a private school and by whom since the school was built by the community. We want our school to be government school to serve the community led by our government. ”
“All documents show the school was registered as a private school. On the issue of ownership, we still have a question who is the owner of Odar consortium. That is the issue.”
Odar consortium is in charge of running the affairs of Southlea park.
Chamisa said “People took advantage, taking over all schools in our area so now we do not have premises to build government schools here, and where schools should be built, you just see buildings going up and we are told the schools belong to individuals. The whole community will fill up with private schools. We need to get back our schools which were on the plan. It is for us the community to hand over the schools to the government.”
She explained “Consortium mubatanidzwa wema kambani ari kuumba musha we Southlea park anova makambani ane huwandu hunodarika 50 zvichienda mberi.
Chamisa said “So there is supposed to be a committee from the companies to run the affairs of Southlea park. The first committee was put in place at its inception at around 2009 but since then, there has never been any AGMs and they are not following the constitution of the consortium because the committee of the consortium should have a fixed term to function which has to be reviewed. This committee is led by Andrew Matenga.
“Then there was another committee which claims to be coming from the companies and are saying they are in charge and we are saying as residents we are now confused with the two committees.
“The committee headed by Matenga is aligned to Chiyangwa and the other committee is not aligned to residents. We don’t recognize both committees and we are running the show as homeowners association because constitutionally the other committees are not in place.
“The issue of the schools is a spillover of the ownership of Southlea Park.
“Sometime back we were once informed by the council that the land had been handed over by ministry of local government to them and that the council should take over running of Southlea Park.
“Southlea Park was designated under Garikayi/Hlalanikuhle housing programme which was for the low income earners.
“We are pleading with the land commission to investigate all land barons who are settling people on wetlands and people are being swindled of their money.” she said.
The Teacher in Charge of the school professes ignorance of the visit as she was off sick prior to the visit.
A committee was set to investigate all matters related to registration of the school.
The committee was given seven days to report back their findings.
After a visit to the ministry of education, the committee reported that the ministry of education had informed them (the committee) that sometime in 2014, Andrew Matenga, chairman of Odar consortium, applied for the construction of a private school in Southlea Park and said that after construction, the school would be handed over to the government.
The committee reported that the ministry officials said his application stated that since they were a consortium, they would build the school and hand it over to the government. The ministry said the school should have been handed over to the government by December 2018.
The parents tasked committee that had gone to the ministry on fact finding mission, to go and tell Matenga to write another letter to the ministry of education telling the ministry that they are now handing over the school to the government.
In a whatsapp response, Chiyangwa said Oda farm was his family property.
“Oda Farm (Southlea park) is private land, belongs to my family. Simple. No further comment.”