WHILE the late former president Robert Mugabe’s daughter Bona and her estranged husband Simba Chikore are still locked in divorce proceedings and intense negotiations on property sharing, the controversial pilot has sold 100 cattle belonging to the couple, prompting contemplation of a police case against him.
This has set the stage for a dramatic and messy divorce which Bona is desperate to avoid to protect her name and family reputation. Chikore’s name is already mired in a series of controversial issues, including the Zimbabwe Airways scandal and the attempt to build a US$39 million mansion at the foot of a mountain next to Venue Umwinzii, in Umwinsidale.
The house is accessible through Carrick Creagh Road, Umwinsidale Road and Luna Road, which converge along the way from opposite directions.
However, the fight for the estate is likely to be fiercely contested as it involves a sentimental house at No. 40 Quorn Avenue in Mount Pleasant, Harare, where Mugabe first stayed when he became prime minister in 1980.
Chikore is demanding his pound of flesh.
One of the properties likely to trigger noise between Bona and Simba is the historic Mount Pleasant house donated to them during their wedding. But after Mugabe gifted them the Mount Pleasant house, the couple asked him to build them a house of their choice and dreams.
As the divorce negotiations intensify, it has now emerged Bona offered Chikore a house in Chishawasha, motor vehicles, cattle and other “significant assets” as part of the divorce settlement.
However, Chikore promptly rejected the offer, demanding, instead, to be given more properties, including in Harare’s upmarket Umwinsidale which Bona is holding onto on the grounds that they were donated to her through her late father’s estate.
An investigation by The NewsHawks in 2021 into the property development showed that the construction of the 25-room house is estimated to cost at least US$20 million. It was originally expected to cost US$39 million.
The imposing mansion sits on a 22-hectare tract of land that cascades down the mountain right to its foot in the Umwinsi River valley in Umwinsidale.
To put it into perspective, the house is built on land that is bigger than the Harare Gardens which sit on 21 hectares.
The house’s plinth — a built-up area measured at the floor level of the storey or at the basement — is about 7 800 square metres.
The multi-storey house has a basement which is 1 200 square metres; ground floor (3 000 square metres); first floor (3 000 square metres); and a sundeck which is 600 square metres.
In the basement are nine rooms, including an apartment, while the ground floor has eight rooms and the first floor has another eight rooms.
When all these additional features are factored in, the house will cost well over US$20 million, according to conservative estimates.
The initial planned cost was US$39 million, before Mugabe’s death gave Simba and Bona a financial reality check.
“At the moment the total cost of the house is expected to be at least US$20 million. This is because the owners of the property are now struggling to finish the house, which at the beginning was supposed to cost US$39 million,” said a source at the Mugabes’ Blue Roof family home in Borrowdale, Harare.
“The late former president was financing the project.”
Mugabe said he would fund the Umwinsidale project; he paid for everything before he died. Simba and Bona are now struggling to complete it. It is a huge project; they need millions of US dollars to complete it.
The source said if Mugabe was still alive the cost would escalate to around US$39 million, considering the price of the vast tracts of land, construction expenses, design charges, finishings and landscaping, which he would have been prepared to finance.
“The price would have been much higher if they still had money because in an elevated mountain area like that it might have cost up to US$5 000 per square metre to build, but that has now been contained at US$2 500 per square metre,” another source said.
While Bona has offered Chikore some properties, her separated husband is demanding to be given more properties which she is flatly refusing to do. This is contrary to Bona’s wish to quickly finalise the divorce and settle all outstanding issues without drama.
In her High Court summons issued to Chikore, Bona prays the divorce must be quickly granted, while the property issue would be dealt with later in a separate suit as permitted by Section 7 of the Matrimonial Causes Act (Chapter 05:13).
She says since the marriage has now irretrievably broken down, dealing with proprietary issues now will only delay granting the divorce decree. She adds that it is just and equitable to address that after divorce. Meanwhile, the parties are still engaging each other on their proprietary interests and rights. This has led to disagreements on how to share the properties.
Section 71(2) of the constitution stipulates that every person has the right, in any part of Zimbabwe, to acquire, hold, occupy, use, transfer, hypothecate, lease or dispose all forms of property.
This includes even on divorce
The principal Act that governs division of property is the Matrimonial Causes Act [Chapter 5:13]. Section 7(1)(a) of the Act provides that in granting a decree of divorce, judicial separation or nullity of marriage, a court may make an order with regard to the division, apportionment or distribution and transfer of the assets from one spouse to the other.
An order made may contain consequential provisions expedient for the purpose of giving effect to it and making operate fairly.
Sub-section 3 of the same provision goes further to limit the power of a court in making an order not to extend to any assets which are proved to have been acquired by a spouse, whether before or during the marriage by way of an inheritance, or in terms of any custom are intended to be held by the spouse personally, or which have particular sentimental value to the spouse concerned. In making an order a court shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the direct or indirect contributions made by each spouse to the family.
Zimbabwean jurisprudence has evolved on the subject based on the fact that all civil marriages in the country are out of community of property, meaning that there is no joining of estates and each spouse keeps his/her estate separate.
Upon divorce, a court must begin by sorting out the property into three lots, which are termed “his”, “hers” and theirs’. The court does not simply lump all the property together and then hand it out as fair. Section 7(3) of the Act explains the process.
In a jointly owned property, each spouse owns a 50% share.
One of the greatest fears of people upon divorce is fear of losing property. For most people property represents stability for family, while to others it represents their own financial stability.
Property might be in the form of movable or immovable, corporeal or incorporeal and tangible or intangible property. Proprietary issues are always ancillary to the divorce.
How property rights are dealt with on divorce differs from one jurisdiction to another.
Bona has filed for divorce with her husband of nine years Simba on the grounds that their marriage has irretrievably broken down with no prospect of restoration.
She filed divorce summons in the High Court on Tuesday.