Afdis engages govt over seized farm

ZIMBABWE Stock Exchange-listed wine and spirit maker African Distillers (Afdis) is still to get back its Springvale Estate, four years after it was acquired by government, businessdigest has learnt.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

The company has since engaged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in a bid to recover the property, pivotal to its operations.

In August 2015, government announced the seizure of 23 farms for acquisition, among them Springvale Estate which covers about 1 300 hectares. The farm is located in Umzingwane district, Matabeleland South province.

“It is hereby notified that the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, acquires for and on behalf of the state, the land identified in the schedule for purposes of agricultural settlement under Section 72(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” read the notice. “The ownership of the acquired land with full title therein vested in the state is with effect from the date of publication of this notice in the Government Gazette.”

Concerted efforts have been made to get back the property since the inauguration of Mnangagwa after Mugabe resigned on the back of a military coup in November last year.

Afdis CE Cecil Gombera told businessdigest this week that the company is still pursuing the matter and has written to the government over the issue.

“We have written a letter to government over the issue but we are still to get a response,” Gombera said.

At the time of the acquisition of the land, Gombera called the development “unfortunate”.

Negotiations by Afdis with the then Minister of Lands under the Mugabe regime, Douglas Mombeshora, had not been concluded at the time of the coup.

Afdis manufactures the bulk of the products it markets which include the Savanna and Hunters cider brands, Gold Blend Whisky, Harrier Whisky, Chateau, Viceroy and Heritage Brandy, gin, rum, vodka as well as sparkling and fortified wines.

The company operates six depots in Bulawayo, Harare, Kwekwe, Masvingo, Mutare and Victoria Falls.

Afdis is not the first company to have land seized. Interfresh Holdings’ Mazoe Citrus Estate, the group’s prime land asset, was seized by Mugabe’s wife Grace, leaving it tottering on the brink of collapse.

Afdis posted a profit-after-tax for the six months to December 2018 of more than $7 million which is more than double that of $2,7 million in the prior year, buoyed by higher revenue and cost containment.

Revenue was up 57% to $25,9 million from $16,4 million, whereas operating income was up 130% to $9,3 million from $4 million.