By-At least 120 people working at Gushungo Dairy Estates have lost their jobs after former first lady Grace Mugabe closed the business entity.
Grace sold about 700 dairy cows worth about US$1.4 million to a prominent butcher, rendering about all the workers at Gushungo Dairy jobless.
The Independent reports that the company had a US$20 million debt, which forced the entity to auction some of its equipment to pay creditors.
The estate, formerly known as Foyle Farm before the property was parcelled to the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) by the then Agriculture ministry, measures 1 200 hectares.
It was later taken by the late former president Robert Mugabe who set up a state-of-the-art dairy plant in Mazowe — about 40km north of Harare. Over 80 newly resettled farmers in Mazowe were forcibly removed to pave way for Mugabe’s business venture.
Gushungo Dairy equipment was imported from South Africa for about US$15 million at a time when Mugabe was ruling Zimbabwe. The company Alpha Omega Dairy (Pvt) Ltd under the Gushungo Estates produced milk, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Grace Mugabe failed to run the business resulting in the sale of 700 dairy cows to a local butcher.
At market value, each dairy cow costs around US$$2 000, but the butcher could have bought them at a lesser price as the cattle were meant for beef. Said the anonymous source:
Gushungo Dairy is closed. Workers have been sent home; about 120 of them. Just a few were left doing menial jobs.
According to the Independent, the dairy equipment is lying idle as a millionaire businessman who is renting the farm has not yet started producing.
Apart from the collapsed Gushungo Dairy, a 1 000 pig and 6 000 chicken project at Mugabe’s rural Kutamba village home, suffered a natural death as Grace neglected the projects.
Mugabe left a huge business portfolio mainly in farming with 21 farms which were acquired when his government touted the one-man-one-farm land policy.
Signs of financial problems started showing in May 2019 after Gushungo Dairy Farm auctioned five combine harvesters, five Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks and other farm equipment. Mugabe later died on September 6, 2019.