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Muzenda’s business empire faces test

Augustine Mukaro

SURVIVAL of the late veteran nationalist Vice-President Simon Muzenda’s business empire hangs in the balance following his death two weeks ago.

Muzenda, who has been a sole-proprietor in his ventures, left behind businesses dotted across the country trading as Murefu Investments and Chekesai Transport.

Without the political influence which had spared it from collapse over the years the business empire now faces a real test of a crumbling economy under the management of his children.

Even during his heyday Muzenda struggled to keep his businesses in tact and had to be dragged before the courts for failing to repay loans advanced by banks. In April 1999 he was sued by Zimbank as it tried to recover $3,3 million relating to his three businesses in Masvingo.

In February 2000 Muzenda was ordered by the High Court to service his debt of $912 798 owed to the Central Africa Building Society. The terms of the court were that Muzenda should pay $19 500 a month and his property stand, subdivision A of Chomfuli farm, be auctioned.

The bulk of his businesses are concentrated in and around Gutu-Mpandawana Growth point, his home area.

Muzenda was the owner of Chekesai Goods Transporters (Pvt) Ltd, which was incorporated in 1991. The haulage company transports goods throughout the Sadc region. Currently his haulage trucks are involved in the transportation of fuel to Murefu service stations along Simon Mazorodze Way.

The late vice-president also owned other filling stations and shops at Zvavahera and Chinyika business centres in Gutu.

He had purchased a filling station in Beatrice 55 km from the capital along the Harare-Masvingo highway to service his haulage trucks.

Over the past five years Muzenda had expanded his business operations in anticipation of retirement from active politics after the disputed 2002 presidential election. His bid to leave office was however rejected by President Robert Mugabe last year on the pretext of needing to ensure that the chaotic land reform programme was completed.

As a way of expanding his business holdings in preparation for retirement, Muzenda opened shops in the Soti-Source resettlement areas which include Chitepo and Tongogara resettlement scheme, north-east of the growth point, which sold agricultural inputs to the resettled farmers.

He had also formed a security company registered as Experts (EGGS) Securities run by businessman Sam Mabika. The company has taken over virtually all security work at Mpandawana growth point.

In Mpandawana Muzenda had renovated his Paradise Park Motel to modern standards. He had also upgraded a service station, which he established at the peak of the fuel crisis in 2000, and built several houses in the low-density residential area of the growth point.

The biggest property development is the outstanding green-tiled multi-million dollar “retirement village” built in 2001.

At his rural home in Zvavahera village, 15 km east of Mpandawana, he had upgraded his pig-rearing project. The project supplies an average of 50 animals a fortnight to butcheries in Masvingo.

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