Minister in messy divorce battle, massive wealth revealed

HARARE – The remarkable wealth of yet another Robert Mugabe's cabinet Minister has been revealed this week, after the assets were uncovered in the Minister’s divorce case.

There is a dispute over what the Minister owns or has owned, but Minister Nguni argues that only the property created during the childless marriage is subject to division, and he has in fact offered most of that part of his estate to his wife.

Property he bought before he married Tsitsi Mabukuchena he says he can legally retain and it should not form part of any divorce settlement. She is claiming around half his entire estate plus maintenance of US$3 000 a month. The High Court will eventually decide.

The Minister, represented by Mawere and Sibanda, initiated the proceedings to end the marriage he entered on July 10 2004, claiming it had broken down irretrievably and that his wife had “conducted herself in a manner which is not consistent with the continuation of a normal marital relationship”.

Mrs Nguni, through Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans, agreed the marriage had broken down, accusing the Minister of infidelity and abusive conduct, which he denies. The arguments now centre on the property dispute. Mrs Nguni listed eight houses, a South African flat and a Norton plot as the real estate owned by the minister.

The houses were: one in Borrowdale, two in Mandara, two in Alexandra Park, one in Newlands, one in Norton and a flat at Northfields in the Avenues. She listed 14 vehicles, including two Mercedes Benzes.

Also listed were shares in: Cottco, Aico, Olam, Seed Co, Underfield Investments, Lombard Investments, Valley Growers, Fitmen Investments, Mike Appel and Interfin and claimed her husband owned a boat, Mugoni Service Station, Scapelox, Transtobac (Pvt) Ltd and had external bank accounts and investments outside Zimbabwe.

She wanted half the estate or three houses, two vehicles including the smaller Mercedes, plus furnishings and US$3 000 a month. The minister denied owning one listed Alexandra Park house and one listed Mandara house, and said the South African flat belonged to a friend.

The Newlands house and the other listed Alexandra Park house he sold last year. The Borrowdale house, where they live, and the Northfields flat he bought before the couple married and so, he argues, cannot be part of the divorce settlement. He was prepared to give Mrs Nguni one house in Mandara and the Norton stand, plus the Norton house which he had bought for her mother.

He argues that three vehicles, including both Mercedes Benzes, were bought before the marriage and a fourth was part of a 2002 parliamentary scheme and so all four were outside any property settlement. He denied owning an eight-tonne truck and several other vehicles and said a larger truck was donated to his constituency.

He denied owning a boat, saying he only had use of it while other vehicles had been sold. He said Mrs Nguni could have a Hilux V6. He categorically denies owning any shares in Cottco, Aico, Olam, Seedco and Interfin and Mugoni Service Station.

He says the service station was just a trading name and he was an agent for selling petroleum products for Redan Petroleum with the property actually owned by a businessman only identified as Matambo.

Underfield Investment was an investment vehicle whose sole assets was the Mercedes Benz CLK320 that he acquired before his marriage, while Lombard Investments owned the sole asset of a Toyota Hilux Legend sold last year. But the minister agreed that he owned 54 percent of Valley Growers, which he acquired before the marriage, and the company in any case was being wound up.

He will dispute that he has money and owns assets outside the country, adding that Scapelox Trading was a company that owned 655 Brook Drive, which he registered in 2001. In Transtobac, the minister agreed he owned 50 percent, which he acquired in 2003 before he married his wife.

On maintenance, the minister argues that he cannot afford paying US$3 000 per month for the upkeep of his wife for the next five years since this was well above his ministerial salary. In any case, he said, his wife has been running two successful restaurants, one at Brook Golf Club for the past three years, and the other for the past year at the Highlands Country Club.

Since she was self-supporting she did not need maintenance, he said. As usual in such disputes the case will go for a pre-trial conference before being heard in the Family Court at the High Court. The pre-trial conference tries to narrow and define issues that have to be eventually decided by a judge.