The family of the late President Robert Mugabe have been rocked by a new scandal after they allegedly sold an assortment of farming equipment belonging to ministries and pocketed the money, it has been learned.
Some of the equipment sold, including tractors, high-pressure water pumps and vehicles, were purchased by various ministries with taxpayers’ money.
The Mugabes gained access to tractors and combines from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) during Gideon Gono’s time as governor of the supreme bank.
The Zanu PF elites mostly benefited from the 2007 agricultural mechanization which aimed to support the land reform program and improve agricultural production. Mechanization drew on patronage networks as the ruling elites and their cronies acquired agricultural equipment.
New details discovered by the Zimbabwe Independent show that some of the equipment the former strongman left at his Gushungo Holdings (Highfield Farm) in Norton and Gushungo Dairy Estate in Mazowe had been adopted by the Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (Arda) which originally occupied the farms before they were handed over to Mugabe.
Gushungo Dairy Estate was originally known as Foyle Farm before the Ministry of Agriculture passed it to Arda as Arda Foyle for two farming seasons after which Mugabe took over and renowned for his totem. The equipment on the farm came from Arda and the RBZ agricultural mechanization program.
Other farms which originally belonged to Arda before being transferred to Mugabe are Mwenewazvo Farm formerly Arda Sigaro measuring 1,300 hectares (ha) and Vusumuzi, originally Arda Gwina (800ha).
At Highfield Farm in Norton, Mugabe bought the property in the 1980s, but during the land reform program he took over four surrounding farms – Tankatara, Cressydale, John O Groats and Clifford – and again, through from the Ministry of Agriculture, the farm received several central pivots out of the five farms measuring a staggering 4,800ha.
Mugabe also owned Smithfield Farm which includes Willows Plot, Lemon Pool, Mazowe Junction and Yarrowdale Lot 5 which is over 1,300 ha. The former first family has Iron Mask Farm measuring 1,399.6ha, Kaseplan (310ha), Manzou Farm covering Surtic Ranch (6,385ha), Arnold Farm (1,297ha), Maggiesdale Farm (1,357ha) and Glenbervile.
But since his death on September 6, 2019, Mugabe’s empire has crumbled as a private farming company now leases Gushungo Dairy Farm in Mazowe, 40km north of Harare. Even Alpha Omega dairy products have disappeared from the shelves, proving how Mugabe’s sprawling empire has been brought to its knees.
According to high-level officials, the District Development Fund (DDF) – a quasi-governmental department under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) – also left some of its equipment at Mugabe’s sprawling farms.
After Mugabe occupied the farms, Arda and DDF never got their property back.
“DDF worked a lot on Gushungo farms. And Arda obtained assets in the farms before the land was transferred to the then first family. Most of the equipment owned by both DDF and Arda has been auctioned off and the government has lost its assets,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
The farm equipment was first sold in May 2019, while another auction was held in March this year. These include Massey Ferguson tractors, motorcycles, Scania horse trucks and Bluewater pumps.
In February 2022, a prominent auctioneer announced that it was selling the equipment, but some Arda officials noticed that a Mazda B1800 truck belonging to the parastatal was up for sale.
Arda succeeded in stopping the sale of the truck.
However, more than 20 tractors were auctioned off and the money was pocketed by the Mugabe family.
“About 90% of the tractors and equipment auctioned in May 2019 and March 2022 were donated under the RBZ mechanization scheme. They (Mugabe’s family) sold and pocketed the money,” an official told the Independent.
The tractors had RBZ numbering marked using white paint.
Lands and Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone was unreachable. His deputy Vangelis Haritatos was also unavailable and did not respond to questions addressed to him.
RBZ Governor John Mangudya also did not respond to questions.
The farmers said it was government policy that equipment given to farmers under the mechanization program remains the property of the state.
Before the tractors were auctioned, the commissioned farming team had offered to refurbish the equipment for the benefit of other farmers, but the Mugabe family rejected the proposal.
A Norton farmer who also asked not to be named citing the sensitivity of the issue said he bought some of the tractors for spare parts.
“I also received tractors under the mechanization program, but I couldn’t get some spare parts. I chose to buy the Mugabes’ tractors at auction this year so that I could buy spare parts,” he said.
Highfield Farm manager Churchill Marufu – who is Grace’s brother – could not comment immediately as his mobile phone went unanswered on several occasions.
Marufu manages part of the Gwina farm known as Bessevile – a property of around 800 ha.