If the political establishment has not yet figured it out, too bad, say
many in the gossip corridors. The public mood in
Addis Abeba is very depressing, gossip observed. The
blame lies partly with developments that are beyond
the control of the Revolutionary Democrats, while in
part they are victims of their own making, according
to those in the gossip corridors.
Above the surface, public exhilaration was provoked after the chief
priest took a rare moment to show his patriotic
side; a shortfall his critics have capitalised on
for a long time. Laying a foundation stone at the
site of a project now dubbed the Great Renaissance
Dam (its fourth name since its inception back in
Emperor Haile Selassie’s time), Meles projected
himself as a leader who would stand up to any power
to defend the interests of this country.
Predictably, his foot soldiers, trained to create mass enthusiasm, and
their allies in the state media were quick to grab
the opportunity to turn patriotism into mass
hysteria. The popular purchasing of bonds and
handing out of cheques to the state by almost all
state owned entities lead one to quip, “The legend
of Abay was to carry the logs of the highland to the
deserts of Egypt; now it does so with the salaries
of public servants,” gossip heard.
However, uneasiness and restlessness appears to be taking hold
underneath the frenzy, gossip observed. Added to the
escalation of prices of almost everything, the
manner in which the Revolutionary Democrats have
handled the economy is backfiring. The climate of
insecurity they have created, particularly among the
business community, seems to have locked its jaws,
claimed those in the gossip corridor.
This is partly due to the unpredictability of the state’s behaviour,
claimed gossip. The powers that be are frequently
criticised for locking up alleged offenders and
looking for evidence to incriminate them, often in a
frantic manner. They cause a big ruckus with their
allegations, only to fail measuring up to their
original claims, gossip observed.
Many put the number of allegedly seized plots by real estate firms at
as many as 30 or more. The EPRDFites originally
claimed the executives of these firms breached a
constitutional provision for selling land, only to
concede later that the allegations were made due to
political mistakes that were “unwise but within the
boundaries of the law.”
The dust from what appeared to be a hyped-up affair settled down soon
after when those heading real estate firms (bar the
two who refused to surrender) pleaded for mercy from
the state. The latter was gracious enough in letting
their transgressions go, but with “hefty fines,” as
the chief priest described it once.
These fines have now arrived at the gates of districts across the city
who are tasked to collect their prizes, gossip
discovered. Ironically, close to 36 of these real
estate firms (out of a total of 124) have financial
penalties amounting (in aggregate) to a little over
10.6 million Br, claimed gossip.
Over half of these companies have their sins engraved as
“expansionism,” while a few were found guilty of
changing the nature of their projects, building in
green areas and buffer zones, and engaging in
construction without permits, according to gossip.
The accused were also blessed with the city administration’s mercy;
they will pay their fines in five instalments, the
first amounting to a little over four million Birr,
The largest fine goes to a real estate firm known as Michael Area
Housing Real Estate, which leased a 23,000sqm plot
in Bole District, in 2005, with the expressed
intention to build 22 villas and 640 condominium
units. This firm is accused of committing all three
transgressions, and must shoulder a total fine of
3.7 million Br.
It was followed by Mulunesh Fiti’iret, a firm that leased 66,763sqm
plots in Bole District. It has to pay 2.4 million Br
for its offence of changing the nature of its
project, gossip disclosed. Then there are the high
profile companies, such as Sunshine Real Estate,
that are subjected to a 1.1 million Br fine; and
SATCON Plc, which has to pay 236,419 Br, according
The smallest fine of 2,509 Br goes to Sisay Desta Real Estate which
leased a 18,000sqm plot in 2007 in Bole District.
Many of these companies have been served notices to pay their dues to
the city within three days, gossip also learned.