By Silas Nkala
Former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) liberation struggle fighters are making frantic efforts to recover property worth millions of dollars seized by ex-president Robert Mugabe’s regime during the Gukurahundi campaign of the 1980s that left an estimated 20 000 people dead in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.
The mass killings, described as a genocide by international organisation Genocide Watch, remain a thorny issue in the country that incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa continues to grapple with, more than 30 years on.
Nitram Investment Holdings, an investment vehicle owned by Zipra veterans, said the freedom fighters are seeking Mnangagwa’s attention to push for the return of their properties confiscated by government. Mugabe was ousted in a military coup last November.
The properties were seized under the pretext the government was dismantling Zipra, a move which the Zapu’s former military wing described as a serious violation of property rights.
Nitram chairperson Mark Mbayiwa told the Zimbabwe Independent that they hope Mnangagwa’s administration will correct the injustice.
He said Zipra veterans had complied a list of properties they want returned.
Mbayiwa said ex-Zipra members met Mnangagwa when he was still Justice minister to present their grievances and are hoping he will act now that he is in charge.
“We had discussed with him asking him to assist us to regain ownership of the properties and he showed positive stance to us,” Mbayiwa said.
“He had asked us to bring our properties’ details and list to him so that he assists us, but he was fired from Zanu PF and government before he ran away. He returned to take over government and we have continued to engage him. What made us to be soft with him is that he has shown commitment to assist in this issue and our hope is that he will resolve our problem.”
He said they were also engaging special advisor to the president Christopher Mutsvangwa over the matter.
The government confiscated properties, including buildings and farms, claiming they were being used as infrastructure to help an insurgency by Zapu dissidents. Also, 4 000 cattle which were on the farms were taken during the seizures.
The properties include Castle Arms Motel, Nest Egg Farm in Bulawayo, Ascot Farm in Solusi, Wood Glen Farm in Nyamandlovu and Hawton Farm in Gweru.
Zipra properties taken in Harare are Nijo Farm and Salisbury Motel. Properties in Bulawayo include a four-storey building, Magnet House, currently being used by the Central Intelligence Organisation, Davies Hall being used as Zanu PF’s Bulawayo provincial headquarters, Lundi Hotel, Green Haven — a sprawling entertainment facility along Victoria Falls Road and several houses.
Mbayiwa said Nitram lost most of the title deeds during the seizures, adding the company was banking on the Mnangagwa administration to assist them regain the documents.
“These properties were confiscated after claims they were being used to keep firearms used by dissidents who allegedly wanted to overthrow government,” he said.
Zipra fighters at independence contributed Z$50 each towards the acquisition of assets for self-sustenance and survival after the liberation war.