Mujuru family divided over property

HARARE – Former vice president Joice Mujuru is at loggerheads with her step-children over a Borrowdale house, which the offspring of the late retired general Solomon Mujuru want to have a share of.

This emerged at a family meeting held on Friday at the Master of High Court, where the issue of the sprawling property in the leafy Hogerty Hill in Harare took centre stage.

Mujuru, one of the most decorated army generals to emerge in Zimbabwe, died under mysterious circumstances in an inferno at his Beatrice farm, about 60 kilometres south of Harare, in August 2011.

An inquest held thereafter ruled out foul play in his death.

The widowed former vice president is seeking to retain sole ownership of number 95/96 Powlett Drive, Hogerty Hill in Harare, as the surviving spouse of the late general. But her step-children are claiming this is not her matrimonial home and therefore they also deserve a share of it.

During the meeting, Joice was accompanied by her lawyer, Joyce Sithole, while her late husband’s four children — Tendai, Maidei, Bianca and Takunda — were in the company of their lawyer, Proud Mutuso.

Also present was the executor, Stern Mufara.

It emerged during the meeting that the house had been placed for sale by the executor in a bid to pay off creditors namely: Guy Watson Smith, who is owed $1 490 000, Bindura Municipality, owed $333 000 and Agribank, owed $7 111.

Sithole told the meeting that the Hogerty Hill house was the couple’s matrimonial home and should therefore be retained to her client.

“After her (Joice) appointment as the country’s vice president, a family decision was made for her to move to a much bigger place which would suit her stature and accommodate reception of dignitaries, which saw her moving to number 4 Springfield Road, Chisipite, Harare in 2005,” she said.

She said the house was bought under the name of a company called Snapton Properties (Private) Limited from MacDonald Chapfika and 95/96 Powlett Drive was leased to tenants.

Sithole said her client only left the matrimonial house temporarily and was supposed to be handed over the property as the surviving spouse following the death of her husband.

“She has the right to go back to the house,” Sithole said.

She gave an example of the former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, who spent a long time staying at the Rainbow Towers in Harare before he moved out to live in a government house.

She said had Mphoko died while they were staying at Rainbow Towers, his wife had the right to retain their Bulawayo house as the surviving spouse.

She went further and also gave an example of the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s scenario, where he moved to a State-owned house during the government of national unity, when he was prime minister.

Sithole said, the surviving spouse has the right to retain Tsvangirai’s Strathaven home, because it is the matrimonial house.

However, Mutuso, said the issue of the matrimonial home seemed to be an afterthought on Joice’s part, claiming she never raised the issue during the first phases, further questioning if the Chisipite home was also going to be treated as a matrimonial home.

Solomon’s child Tendai, said in terms of the law, a surviving spouse takes the home that she would be staying in at the time of her husband’s death.

Tendai said instead, during the time of Solomon’s death, Joice was staying at number 15 Coghlan Road, Chisipite, Harare and only moved to number 4 Springfield Road after Solomon’s death.

He also demanded cash flow statements on amounts paid in rentals from Solomon’s properties and a list of the movable and immovable assets.

While the Borrowdale house is now likely to be sold to pay off the creditors, Mufara said it was not his intention to have the property sold but to wind up the estate.

He said if the family was to come up with a distribution plan to the beneficiaries and the creditors, he would be glad.

He said if there were other means to pay off the creditors, he will suspend the sale of the house.

Sithole said Joice, had since spoken to Smith about the retirement of his debt, adding that the other creditors could be paid off as well.

But Mufara said he wanted confirmation from Smith on the agreement entered between the parties on how the $1,4 million was going to be paid off.

The next meeting will now be held today, to iron out issues regarding the estate.