BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA THE late national hero and Lands and Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri’s daughter, Rufaro Stephanie is seeking to bar former Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele from administering her father’s estate, accusing him of illegally imposing himself as the executor.
Rufaro wants the State to reopen the estate, following irregularities in the execution process, which include the appointment of Gula-Ndebele as the executor.
Gula-Ndebele’s administration of the estate has divided the late national hero’s children, with some being accused of working in cahoots with him to fraudulently
benefit from the estate when they were not his biological children.
The divisions have prompted the family to call for a roundtable meeting with parties involved to discuss Shiri’s estate.
In response to calls for a roundtable meeting, through her lawyers Tapera Muzana and Partners, Rufaro wrote a letter dated May 20, 2022 demanding to know the agenda of the meeting before she agrees to attend.
“We refer to the above matter and your letter dated May 5, 2022, which was served upon our law firm on May 9, 2022. We forwarded your letter to our client and she advised us to respond as follows: She is kindly asking you to take the issue that we have mutual interest, thus will enable us to prepare all the necessary paperwork before the round table meeting.”
Some of Shiri’s family members doubt the authenticity of the documents that were being used by the Master of the High Court, Eldard Mutasa, to handle Shiri’s empire.
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They claim some documents had forged government letterheads. The matter was reported to the police last year under ER5/2021 for investigation.
Contacted for comment, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was yet to check the progress on the matter.
“I need to check on that,” Nyathi said.
“Right now, I am in Victoria Fall attending an event.”
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) last year also opened another investigation under case reference number HCR 116-09-21 into the alleged illegal sale of the late Shiri’s assets by his daughters Cynthia and Tatenda, reportedly in connivance with Tawanda Zulu and Stephan Tanaka Musvamhiri, who are listed as children to the late national hero in the overall estate distribution.
Zacc spokesperson John Makamure yesterday confirmed that the investigations were still on.
“We confirm that the commission is investigating allegations of sale of assets belonging to the late minister. Investigations are in progress,” Makamure said.
Rufaro is challenging the inclusion of Zulu and Musvamhiri on the estate, claiming that their paternity was in dispute.
Rufaro says Gula-Ndebele was his father’s lawyer at the time of his death, raising questions why he was then appointed executor dative and testamentary; that is, an executor who is appointed by the relevant court in cases where a deceased individual did not leave a valid will and, therefore, died intestate.
“It’s interesting to note that he insists and claims he was my father’s lawyer when everything else suggests he was not and I know he wasn’t,” Rufaro told NewsDay.
“In 20-2014, my late father took Brian Tarisai Kambasha and Hemingworth Cartwright (Pvt) Ltd to court, file record of the case being HH 36-17 CA 270/15, in which my father was represented by the National Prosecuting Authority (State) or had State attorneys representing him. A question to ask (is) where was Mr Sobusa Gula-Ndebele? Certainly, the case was not a State issue, but rather personal,” she said.
“The case was to do with a contract that was signed for a solar plant installation at Hopedale Farm in Bindura, that was to start off with a 100kVA installation that would later on see the same company installing a 600kVA plant on completion of the project. The second question is: When the contract was signed, where was he and why did my father opt to do the paperwork without a lawyer when he had a lawyer?”
She also accused Tatenda and Cynthia of allegedly conniving with Gula-Ndebele to fraudulently administer the late Shiri’s estate.
Gula-Ndebele, Rufaro said, was reportedly making efforts to frustrate the reopening of the estate, including intimidating her lawyers.
“The Master of the High Court should explain how Mr Gula-Ndebele became executor,” Rufaro averred.
“The two Shiri ladies, Tatenda and Cynthia, are now working in cahoots with Mr Gula-Ndebele. Why would they invite Gula-Ndebele, who was fired from the Attorney-General’s Office under unclear circumstances? Why would they confirm him as executor when they had everything to lose if they entrust their father’s estate to an individual like (that)?”
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Gula-Ndebele were in vain because he was not answering calls.
Contacted for comment, Zulu curtly said he was not aware of the row over the estate.
“I am not aware of anything,” Zulu said and hung up his phone.
Cynthia also said she had no comment on the matter.
“It’s my first time to hear about this,” Cynthia said. “I have nothing to say.”
But Tanaka insisted that she was Shiri’s biological daughter and she trusted Gula-Ndebele as the legally appointed executor.
“Actually, I am wondering why it has taken so long for this estate to be administered and close the case,” Tanaka said.
“I am the youngest child of the late minister and his every other child came to the Shiri family the same way I did. I am ready to redo the DNA test to prove that I am his child. However, it is not fair for another child to doubt my paternity when I have not questioned theirs.
“We are all equal as his children. I even think that every other child of our father should do DNA tests so that the truth comes out. The matter has been going on for long and there is need for it to be closed. Personally, I am ready to leave the Shiri family if I am not his daughter, but I am very confident of my paternity.”
Mutasa allegedly considered Shiri’s 1995 will in listing the beneficiaries of his estate, where he bequeathed 50% of his bank savings, insurance policies to his now late son Titus and the other half of savings to his children Tatenda and Cynthia Shiri, and all his other children who were yet to be born.
A death notice filed at the Master’s Offices indicated that three more children: Zulu, Rufaro and Tanaka were also listed as beneficiaries of Shiri’s estate.
Rufaro, however, claimed that the late minister had disregarded the will after registering a family trust with her as executor.
She argued that Zulu and Tanaka, whom she alleged only showed up after her father’s death, should not be included in the administration of the estate until the paternity disputes have been resolved.
“Both Tanaka and Tawanda are accomplices,” Rufaro said. “They have no scientific proof to prove their relationship with the late Perrance Shiri and I believe they have been planted in the estate as agents to loot for probably Tatenda and Cynthia’s benefit in the distribution exercise, so all of them should be arrested. The leadership of this country has made it clear that no one is above the law and there is no room for corruption.”
- Follow Miriam on Twitter @FloMangwaya