By Tendai Kamhungira
For over 37 years, former president Robert Mugabe had remained untouchable as many citizens suffered in silence at the hands of the autocratic leader. But when his rule came to a dramatic end nearly two years ago, Mugabe’s world crumbled, leaving him exposed and open to numerous lawsuits, which were not possible to pursue during his time at the helm.
With the number of cases before the courts swelling, his legal bill can easily be running into hundreds thousands of dollars. The cases before the courts involve him, his company Gushungo Holdings (Private) Limited as well as his wife Grace.
As president, Mugabe amassed wealth and wielded immense power. Many who were wronged by him — rightly or wrongly — licked their wounds in silence during the 37 years he was in power without recourse.
But since his resignation following an army intervention, Mugabe, his wife and their companies have been in and out of the courts, defending several litigations, dating back to his time when he was the country’s president.
The former president could be losing a fortune, through engaging lawyers to defend these cases. Only recently Mugabe’s wife, was ordered to pay $278 304 to Manase and Manase Legal Practitioners for representing her in a botched $1,4 million diamond ring deal.
In the court case, Grace claimed to have been duped by Lebanese businessman Jamal Ahmed, before approaching the lawyers for them to represent her in 2016.
However, the law firm claimed in court that after being represented for two years, Grace did not pay the legal fees, convincing the court to give an order for the money to be paid. While this is a recent development, legal woes against Mugabe started as early as he left office.
As president, he enjoyed enormous power and authority and people would always cautiously deal with cases involving him and his family. According to Section 98 of the country’s Constitution, a sitting
president is immune to prosecution in his personal capacity.
The national charter says while in office, the president is not liable to civil or criminal proceedings in any court for things done or omitted to be done in his or her personal capacity.
“Civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against a former president for things done and omitted to be done before he or she became president or while he or she was president.
“The running of prescription in relation to any debt or liability of the president arising before or during his or her term of office is suspended while he or she remains in office,” the Constitution states.
Upon leaving office in November 2017, all hell broke loose.
In January 2018, he was ordered to vacate Mazowe Smithfield Farm and give way to operations by small-scale miners, who claimed ownership of the same property.
In March of the same year, Mugabe through his company Gushungo Holdings, dragged the miners Shepherd Nyazvigo, Bright Mawonga, Mohammed Rezwan Khan and the officer in charge Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Support Unit, demanding to be allowed back to the farm.
As if this was not enough, Mugabe’s company was also dragged to the High Court in May 2018 for failing to pay over $174 000 for potato seed acquired on credit from Seed Potato Co-op (Private) Limited in 2015. However, Mugabe’s company turned the tables against the potato producing company, accusing the firm of breaching a verbal contract entered between the two parties.
Mugabe’s company in its papers claimed the potato seed that was delivered was substandard and defective and resulted in the company incurring losses instead of profits.
During the same month, Mugabe’s other company Alpha Omega Dairy (Private) Limited was also in court facing eviction from its offices after it allegedly failed to pay $29 000 for rentals.
As the litigation kept coming, in October last year, Mugabe and his wife were again back in court defending an application by three Mazowe farmers who were evicted from Teviotdale Farm in 2009 to pave way for the ex-first family’s company Gushungo Holdings (Private) Limited.
In their application, the three farmers — Adonia Makombe, Sahungwe Hungwe and Nyika Chifamba — cited Mugabe, his wife Grace, Gushungo Holdings, police commissioner general Godwin Matanga, Lands minister Perrance Shiri and Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema and police chief superintendents only identified as Nhubu and Kunene, as respondents.
The three told the court that they grabbed Lot 1A Teviotdale Farm in Mazowe District of Mashonaland Central Province at the height of the land reform programme in 2000 and were given government offer letters in 2009 before being kicked out by police on Mugabe’s orders in 2009. They however, demanded Mugabe’s eviction from the farm.
Last June, Mugabe’s son Chatunga Bellarmine’s property was set to be auctioned over a $12 000 debt after he allegedly failed to pay rentals for his butchery business in Chitungwiza.
According to court papers, Chatunga was to lose various items that include a fusion small plasma television set, office chair, office desk, one plastic chair, one small chair, one small broken chair, one small table, three display fridges, a c40 deep freezer, two tables, a computer till, meat cutter, a working table and a generator. While the whole family seemed to be enjoying immunity based on their father’s position during his tenure in office, the diplomatic veil has since been lifted.
This include the diplomatic immunity initially applied on Grace in South Africa, after she assaulted a model in Johannesburg in 2017. At the time when the incident took place, the South African government granted Grace diplomatic immunity, allowing her to leave South Africa.
The immunity was however, scrapped last July by the court. South African police last December issued an arrest warrant against the former first lady for attacking the model — Gabriella Engels —
using an electrical extension cord at an upmarket hotel in the business district of Sandton where the Mugabes’ two sons were staying. Daily News