Persecuted till death: Letter reveals Nkomo’s struggle to repossess property seized by Mugabe

Former Vice President Joshua Nkomo once confronted President Robert Mugabe and the then Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa demanding the release of his properties seized by the government during the Gukurahundi era.

Mugabe had defeated Nkomo in the 1980 elections and a few years later the former unleashed the Fifth Brigade army into Matabeleland and Midlands to crush dissidents and former guerrillas loyal to Nkomo.

This resulted in the massacre of 20 000 people mostly civilians.

Mugabe’s government also grabbed properties bought by Zipra war veterans with their demobilisation money after he accused the Nkomo-led Zapu of plotting to topple him.

A relentless Nkomo confronted Mugabe over the properties almost a decade after the two former rivals had signed a unity pact, as seen in a letter dated 29 December 1995 addressed to Mnangagwa.

In the letter, Nkomo states that he had been referred to Mnangagwa by Mugabe and accused Mnangagwa of “prevaricating on the subject absenting yourself whenever I call you to discuss the issue with me”.

Nkomo who indicated in the letter that he had suffered financial losses following the seizure of his properties, vowed to repossess the property by 1 January 1996.

“You are also in possession of my financial statements indicating my indebtedness to several financial institutions including commercial banks. This came about as a result of the seizure of properties and I will therefore expect you to settle these debts. All these conditions are to be met by 1 January 1996 including the reimbursement of my personal savings which were seized from my personal accounts,” wrote Nkomo.

In his response to Nkomo dated 26 January 1996, Mnangagwa said some of the properties which included Walmer Ranches (Sambane, Makwe and Shukwe) had been returned to Nkomo through a “legal instrument and these farms are now in your legal possession. As regards any other property there has never been instruction to change ownership”.

Mnangagwa also denied that “I have ever prevaricated on this subject but on the contrary, I have clarified to you on several occasions any issue or matter legal or factual you need clarified”.

He also said the government could not take responsibility for Nkomo’s personal finances.

Nkomo died on 1 July 1999 at the age of 82.

In November 2017, Mnangagwa toppled Mugabe and took over the presidency and has since pledged to return the seized ZPRA properties.

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