By Nunurai Jena
Former first lady Grace Mugabe allegedly told her farm workers that she was untouchable and no one will force her to pay their outstanding wages, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
According to workers at Gwina Farm in Banket, Grace visited the property last week accompanied by her husband former president Robert Mugabe and told the 106 employees that she was not going to pay them terminal benefits.
She allegedly dared the workers to take the matter to Mnangagwa, saying she would not be coerced into paying them.
The Gwina Farm workers’ representative Golden Pinjisi said the Mugabes visited the farm after employees demanded that they be given their terminal benefits since the operations of the farm were handed over to a Wilson Marufu last September.
“She came breathing fire in Banket accompanied by former president Mugabe and lied that she had given us our dues, but when asked by Mugabe if she had evidence that she paid us she went mad, telling the former president to keep quiet accusing us of lying to him. She is still the motor-mouth Grace Mugabe” said Pinjisi
“Let’s meet in the courts. I will not give you any cent even if you go and report to Mnangagwa. Nothing is going to change.
Mnangagwa has no say over us,” said Pinjisi quoting Grace.
Another worker, Sarudzai Mutema, confirmed the visit by the Mugabes and alleged that Grace was trying to intimidate the workers instead of paying them their benefits.
“The former first lady Grace came here yesterday threatening us and telling us that she is not giving us our money even if we report the matter to Mnangagwa,” she said .
Mutema said what irked them most was that Grace wanted to give them rice as payment for their labour.
Grace’s lawyer Fungai Chimwamurombe confirmed the meeting, but claimed some employees were raising “false allegations” because they did not want to leave the farm, which they were “illegally” occupying.
“There are no terminal benefits payable to anyone in the circumstances. There is no claim that has been raised before any court of law or labour officer,” he said. “Some ex-employees are raising these false allegations because they don’t want to leave the farm which they are illegally occupying.”
On the allegations that the Mugabes wanted to create a new entity known as Vusumuzi Estates to replace Gushungo Holdings to avoid paying workers their terminal benefits, Chimwamurombe said the former is a subsidiary of the latter.
“Please note that Vusumuzi is a subsidiary of Gushungo Holdings and some of these employees were always employed by Vusumuzi, even to date,” he said.
“This is clear from their contracts. Mr Marufu is only managing the farming operations.”
Gwina Farm was reportedly grabbed by Grace from Supreme Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, who was then allocated another land.
According to reports, the former first family owns over 10 farms in the country.