ZANU PF national secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa has warned party activists against grabbing other people’s properties, saying the move was against the government’s empowerment policy and tarnished the ruling party’s image.
BY NUNURAI JENA/JOHN NYASHANU
Mutasa also lashed out at some Zanu PF members who were using the party to wrestle control of some companies and properties owned by indigenous people.
His remarks followed reports that some senior party activists in Chinhoyi were pushing to take over an old people’s home founded by a 75-year-old widow — Florence Ndlovu, popularly known as Ambuya Howard.
“It’s a cock and a bull story which I don’t think exists. Only this month, the President (Robert Mugabe) was there in Chinhoyi, preaching how the gospel of empowerment should go,” Mutasa said.
He vowed to get to the bottom of the matter and deal with similar cases across the country at a time Zimbabwe was battling to repair its battered image on the international stage.
“He (Mugabe) made it clearthat empowerment does not mean grabbing other people’s property. How could they go against such good teachings coming from our esteemed leader?” Mutasa queried in an interview.
Last week, Ndlovu said some Zanu PF officials had attempted to grab her 30-year-old project — Chengetanai Old People’s Home — since 2005.
The septuagenarian widow is now seeking Mugabe’s intervention over the matter.
She told NewsDay that she founded Chengetanai in 1983, but was taken aback after some Zanu PF officials she had engaged as board members tried to wrestle the home from her.
The institution is home to 33 elderly people from around the community and beyond, courtesy of the efforts of Ndlovu, a widow who claims to have invested her late husband’s entire estate to kick-start the project.
In 2005, she approached Vice-President Joice Mujuru over the issue, but to no avail.
In a letter dated June 28 2005, Mujuru directed the late Mashonaland West governor Nelson Samkange to resolve the impasse.
“I write to advise that Florence Howard Ndlovu has been to this office to see the Vice-President Honourable J T R Mujuru concerning her plight of being thrown out of the institution she started using own funds and house. As the governor and resident minister for Mashonaland West Province, could you kindly resolve this issue and let the Vice-President know the outcome of your consultations,” read the letter from Mujuru’s office.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Minister of State in Vice-President Mujuru’s office Sylvester Nguni professed ignorance over the wrangle.
“I do not know anything about that case. Let me try and check with our officers tomorrow (today),” Nguni said.
However, up until last week, the officials, led by current chairperson of the board running the home and Zanu PF ward 4 chair Elias Chitate, were still pushing for Ndlovu’s ouster.
The elderly founder further accused her rivals of looting foodstuffs meant for the senior citizens.
“This co-opted chairman is running down the organisation as they are looting food meant for the home,” Ndlovu said.
“Wait and see, last time I went as far as the Vice-President this time around I’m going to see the President naked. I’m a fighter, I fight for the poor. I sacrificed the whole of my life depriving myself of good things.”
She said she was a fighter who spent five years at Hwahwa Prison during the liberation war for supporting freedom fighters.
Chitate admitted he supported Ndlovu’s removal and that he deserved to benefit from handouts donated to the institution.
“Ambuya Howard was retired a long time ago and has been given the right to stay at the home which she founded, but she can’t portray to be indispensable (sic),” Chitate said.
“Just like (charitable) organisations like Jairos Jiri, there comes a time when the founders pass on the baton. There is nothing wrong in me getting bread as it is part of my benefits since I’m the chairperson who is involved in fundraising.”
But Ndlovu insisted that as the founder, she had the authority to manage the institution’s day-to-day running and no one else had the right to elbow her out.
“I started looking after five elderly people from few things donated by well-wishers. Father Mutema from the Roman Catholic Church gave me a pot and two plates, Cathrine Shipe of the Salvation Army provided me with 10kg of mealie-meal and some vegetables while (former provincial governor) Samkange gave me a blanket, another bucket of mealie-meal and vegetables,” she said.
She said she later bought a residential property (house number 3702 in Gadzema) using her late husband’s savings and received a further £200 from Zanu PF politburo member Nathan Shamuyarira. As the people who needed help increased, Ambuya Howard was forced to look for a bigger place.
She sold her house and the two vehicles they owned with her late husband to raise the money to buy the five hectares of land which is now a source of the conflict with the Zanu PF officials in the area.
One of the cars was bought by late minister Swithun Mombeshora and the other one by nationalist and businessman Reuben Marumahoko, she claimed.