The Sunday Mail
One of the companies fighting for control of Cold Comfort Primary School in Harare, Release Power Investments, has won a protracted legal battle over ownership of the learning institution against Unitime Investments.
But the war is not yet over.
Now parents have vowed to resist the take-over as they insist the school belongs to the community.
Just five years ago, Cold Comfort Primary was in another ownership wrangle after an ugly take-over when Unitime sold the property to Herentals College.
At that time, both Release Power and Unitime were in possession of different title deeds to the same property and both claimed to have bought the school from Cold Comfort Trust.
Order was only restored after Government intervened and ordered the disputing parties to resolve the matter without interfering with learning processes.
Herentals College vacated the premises and the two opposing companies resolved to go to court, resulting in Release Power winning the case.
According to documents in possession of The Sunday Mail Extra, High Court judge Justice Esther Muremba on November 19, 2015 ordered that the title deeds be transferred from Unitime to Release Power.
“It is ordered that Deed Number 3410/2009 on stand number 7953 Tynwald of stand 7739 Tynwald Township measuring 5,3401 hectares made in favour of first respondent (Unitime Investments) is hereby declared cancelled. Deed of Transfer No 00048732009 is hereby declared as the valid deed over the said property.”
Release Power is owned by former ZBC boss Mr Oniyas Gumbo.
Mr Gumbo has now written to the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry seeking clearance to register the premises in his name.
He also wants the headmaster replaced with a headmistress while other members of the administration also have their heads on the chopping block.
But parents argue that the school is still under the patronage of the Cold Comfort Trust led, by My Didymus Mutasa. Chair of the Cold Comfort School Development Committee, Mr Simon Manjengwa, alleges Mr Gumbo forged documents to grab the institution. He said when Mr Mutasa sanctioned sale of the farm on which the school is to property firm Assetfin in 1998, the learning institution was not part of the deal. He further claims that Release Power and Unitime are one and the same and are conniving to take control of the school fraudulently.
“The school started in 1982 and it belonged to the farm, Cold Comfort Farm, which was run by Cold Comfort Trust.
“This school was built through donations and it can only be sold by Government – not by an individual because no one owns this place,” he said.
“The wrangle started when the trust decided to sell the farm to (Assetfin). When the farm was sold the agreement was that the school, the clinic and some houses which used to be hide-outs for freedom fighters will not be sold.
“However, some companies later emerged and started claiming that they bought the school. These companies, Unitime led by Antony Parehwa and Release Power led by Oniyas Gumbo started making all sorts of demands.
“Parehwa was an engineer and Gumbo a foreman when Assetfin was developing this place so we suspect that they may have forged documents to take over the school.”
Mr Manjengwa said the SDC would engage a lawyer to contest the High Court order.
He said they already had a peace order against Mr Gumbo and his company to guarantee smooth running of the school.Mr Gumbo is adamant that the school belongs to him, adding that people should work together rather than fight him.
“The school is mine, I bought it from the Cold Comfort Trust in 1998. Then, it was bought by Assetfin which was also my company. I have been quiet all along but now I want my school. I have all the documentation to prove that I am the owner so those who are resisting, who are they?
“The trust is not saying anything because they know they sold the school so those in the streets fighting this battle, who are they?”
Documents produced by Mr Gumbo did show that the farm together with other property on it was, indeed, sold to Assetfin.
An agreement of sale signed by Mr Mutasa reads: “The properties are sold voetstoots with all permanent fixtures and fittings and shall not include the grinding mill and any other movable property …”
District education officer for Warren Park Mr Claude Nyambuya added: “Presently the wrangle is still going on. There is a High Court order granting Mr Gumbo ownership of the premises.
“We are very worried about the situation and we want it to be resolved quickly, we, however, want to assure the parents that lessons won’t be disturbed when schools open.”
Mr Mutasa declined to comment.