Former first lady Grace Mugabe risks losing all her properties in Mazowe – including her famed Gushungo dairy operations and top-notch school thereafter the government indicated that it could re-allocate the farms under her control to miners which were displaced from the area during her late husband’s tenure in power.
This comes as there continues to be lingering about what lies ahead for the irascible and once untouchable widow of former president Robert Mugabe, following his recent death and his contested place of burial.
Former President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, along with their family business, Gushungo Holdings were evicted from a Mazowe farm following an application by three farmers who were claiming ownership of the land.
Adonia Makombe, Sahungwe Hungwe and Nyika Chifamba issued summons at the High Court against Mugabe in June last year, seeking his eviction from Lot 1A Teviotdale Farm in Mazowe district of Mashonaland Central province.
The three argued that they were holders of offer letters for the land, which they grabbed at the height of the land reform programme in 2000.
But, Mugabe and his wife challenged the farmers’ assertion, arguing the letters were not an entitlement to the land and that they had no right to demand the eviction over land for which they themselves had no lawful authority to use, possess or occupy.
Mugabe argued that only the Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement minister could exercise that right, but High Court judge Justice Helena Charehwa ruled in favour of the farmers and ordered the former President off the land.
In their application, the three cited Mugabe, Grace, Gushungo Holdings, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement and Home Affairs ministers Perrance Shiri and Cain Mathema and police chief superintendents only identified as Nhubu and Kunene, as respondents.
“It is ordered that an order be and is hereby made against fourth to eighth defendants in terms of R182 (ii) for (1) the restoration of possession of sub-division 1, 2 and 3 of Lot A of Teviotdale Farm, Mazowe district to first, second and third respondents (Makombe, Hungwe and Chifamba) respectively.
The judge also ordered the “eviction of all persons claiming occupation through fifth defendant (Lands minister) of sub-division 1, 2 and 3 of Lot A of Teviotdale Farm, Mazowe district Mashonaland Central Province” plus payment of costs on a higher scale.
However, soon after being evicted from the piece of land, Mugabe, Grace and Gushungo Holdings filed an appeal at the Supreme Court on February 15, 2019 challenging Justice Charehwa’s order and the matter is yet to be set down for hearing.
On February 18, the farmers also filed an urgent chamber application seeking an order for executing their judgment pending Mugabe’s appeal and the matter is also yet to be set down for hearing.
Meanwhile, Gushungo Holdings is reportedly on the verge of collapse after it emerged that the company was struggling to keep afloat and was failing to pay workers’ salaries since September last year.
According to one of the workers’ leaders, a Dr Elson Sweva, Gushungo Holdings owes workers substantial amounts of money in salaries and commission.
Sweva said the situation worsened when the company reduced salaries without the workers’ consent.
“Things have not been going on well since March last year, but the situation became worse after our salaries were reduced from $250 to $100 in September,” Sweva said.
He said the company stopped paying commission last year as it was experiencing high product returns.
He said most workers received a two months’ salary of $196 following a meeting held on February 1.
“Following a meeting on February 1, we were given two month’s salary totalling $196 and, surely, what would one do with that amount in this economy? Even housemaids are paid better salaries,” Sweva added.
But Gushungo Holdings managing director, Lameck Chinoera said the company does not owe workers outstanding dues, claiming that it was the other way round because some employees were still to repay advanced loans.
“We don’t have anyone who is owed a salary. Those who work for commission are paid for what they would have worked for. It’s not for the company to give people extra commission, it’s calculated. I have a payroll indicating that some people actually have loans,” said Chinoera.
On the viability of the company, Chinoera said they were being affected by foreign currency shortages like any other business in the country.
“We might have closed down one or two products on account of shortages of forex like most companies, but we are actually working on two shifts,” he said.
Sources said Gushungo Holdings reduced its workforce by half since March last year and has been hit by resignations of key personnel.
Last year, Grace told 106 workers at Gwina Farm in Banket that she was not going to pay them terminal benefits even if they went to court.
Gwina Farm was reportedly grabbed by Grace from Supreme Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, who was then allocated another land.
According to reports, the former First Family owns over 10 farms in the country.