Vehicles and farm equipment belonging to former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s company Gushungo Holdings are set to be auctioned on Saturday.
In a notice by Ruby Auctions, the auctioneer said they had been instructed by their “most valued client” to sell at least 40 vehicles, most of them Toyota D4D off-road trucks.
There were also about 30 tractors and accessories to be sold in-situ at the Gushungo Dairy estate in Mazowe where 80 newly resettled farmers were forcibly removed from the area to make way for a dairy project.
Since being deposed in a coup in November 2017, the Mugabe family’s business fortunes at Alpha and Omega Dairy have taken a gradual dip, just like most companies operating in the failing economy.
Last year the company reduced salaries and commission fees for its workers before going into this year without paying at all.
Earlier this week, Alpha and Omega’s southern region sales executive Cassim Asani told journalists that the company’s flagship products such as milk and ice cream were not selling as well as in the past.
“We are producing the products but the rate of uptake in supermarkets is very low because the majority of the people do not have enough buying power,” he said.
Asani added that the company was struggling to raise foreign currency to source ingredients and spare parts for its imported machinery.
“When we want to import ingredients and spare parts, forex is not yet readily available,” he said.
However, in January Alpha Omega Dairy was one of the companies allowed to import duty-free powdered milk. The company has a government agreement where it is meant to import a maximum of 100,000kg of full-cream milk powder a year and a maximum of 50,000kg of skimmed milk powder.
The ambitious project by the former first family was marketed as a beacon of hope for the local dairy industry by the Mugabes when they were in power.
Using political leverage in 2009, the Mugabes, through proxies, forced Nestlé Zimbabwe – the local subsidiary of the Swiss company – to buy milk from them despite the milk not meeting minimum standards required by Nestlé.
Addressing a Zanu-PF crowd at his birthday party, Mugabe instructed his then indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere to start with Nestlé when embarking on company seizures because they refused to buy his milk.
“Nestlé refused to buy milk from Gushungo dairies. I told Kasukuwere to begin with them and tell them he was sent by me. We should deal with them; let them get out of the country,” Mugabe said.
But despite preferential treatment the company failed to bring back the glory years of the dairy sector which at its peak in the 1990s produced an average of 260 million litres of milk.
Last year, the country’s milk producers came up with an underwhelming 70 million litres of raw milk against a demand of 120 million litres.
The deficit is covered by milk imports from SA. As such government has since engaged a state-run Belarus milk enterprise with the hope of setting up shop in Zimbabwe.