HARARE – Former First Lady Grace Mugabe forced a housing cooperative to allocate her sister Shuvai Gumbochuma and relative Farai Mashonganyika two upmarket stands with a combined value of US$900,000, a court heard.
The complainants Rumbidzai Ankomah née Muzembi and Xavier Muzembi are now suing and demanding compensation from the Sally Mugabe Heights Housing Cooperative, which has since confessed to the coercion saying “power was at play.”
Gumbochuma and Mashonganyika are also cited in the High Court application together with Arosume Property Development (Pvt) Ltd, the land developer, and local government minister.
The Muzembis want compensation from the respondents jointly and severally in the sum of US$900,000 or equivalent in the local currency – with interest – for Stands No. 91 and 228 in Borrowdale’s Carrick Creagh, Harare, which they say were registered to them by the housing cooperative after paying fees for development and service charges in full.
Stand 91 measures 8,003 square meters while Stand 228 measures 12,098 square meters.
In her founding affidavit, Rumbidzai said that they joined the Sally Mugabe Housing Cooperative in November 2004 and paid all the requisite fees and membership.
“Contrary to the position that the plaintiffs had fully paid for the service charges and development costs of the stands, on the 17th of October 2011, Arosume furnished the plaintiffs with a bill in the sum of US$57,762 for each stand,” the Mzembisa said.
Just as the plaintiffs were trying to get to the bottom of the matter, they discovered that their stands had since been occupied by Gumbochuma and Mashonganyika.
And to their shock, the new occupants had been issued with title deeds by local government minister, prompting the Muzembi’s to suspect foul play.
“As such, there is a possibility that the transfers were of a fraudulent nature especially considering that both the Housing Cooperative and Arosume deny recommending the two to be given title deeds by the minister of local government,” the complainants said.
Investigations would later have both the housing cooperative and the developer admitting to the applicants that they were arm-twisted by the widow of the late former president Robert Mugabe to divert the stands and give them to her relatives, the court was told.
They added: “The plaintiffs suspect that Arosume’s demand for more development fees was an effort to discourage them from pursuing their properties and mask the corruption involved in swindling the plaintiffs of the stands. This is further emphasized and to reduce the asking price of development fees to US$20 per square meter.
“The first defendant [housing cooperative] also confirmed that former first lady Mrs. Grace Mugabe took plaintiffs’ stands and allocated them to Gumbochuma and Mashonganyika and that power was at play here.”
Gumbochuma and Mashonganyika have indicated that they would oppose the lawsuit, with Gumbochuma confessing that she was never a member of Sally Mugabe Heights Housing Cooperative, according to the plaintiffs.
The matter is pending.