A dairy business set up by the late Zimbabwean strongman, Robert Mugabe, on land confiscated from a white commercial farmer has shut down operations as huge debts choked his operations.
Mugabe, who ruled the South African country with an iron fist for almost 37 years, died in September 2019, two years after he was overthrown in a military coup.
His sprawling business empire, consisting of Alpha Omega Dairy, which produces milk , yoghurt, cheese and ice cream made commercial farms forcibly taken from white Zimbabweans at the height of controversial land reforms, has struggled since its fall.
One of Zimbabwe’s leading publications, the Zimbabwe Independent< /em>, first reported Lady Grace Mugabe had sold approximately 700 dairy cows valued at approximately $1.4 million to exit the deal.
Alpha Omega Dairy owed creditors 20 mil million dollars and was forced to auction some of his equipment to make ends meet.
The company was founded on a farm called Gushungo Dairy Esta tes in Mazowe, which is about 40 kilometers north of the capital Harare is located.
“The Gushungo cows have been sold,” an unidentified official at Alpha Omega Dairy told the publication.
“The Gushungo Dairy property is closed. Workers were sent home, about 120 of them.
“Only a few were left to do menial jobs. There is no activity in the yard. Most of the equipment was auctioned off earlier this year, some last year.
“This paints a bleak picture of a once thriving dairy farm. Things are not going well.
“In fact, the Mugabe family has reduced operations on the farms. In summary, they failed miserably.”
At its peak, Mr. Mugabe’s dairy farm had over 2000 cows and Alpha Omega produced a variety of yoghurts, ice creams, mineral water, fruit juices and milk.
The Growth was so rapid that in 2015, then-Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made announced that Alpha Omega had snatched 30% of the dairy market in Zimbabwe from established companies, including state-owned giant Dairiboard Zimbabwe, just three years after its inception.
The former First Lady once described her farm as the second largest in southern Africa and claimed that she had installed equipment capable of milking 64 cows at a time.
It was presented as a model touted success for the South African country’s controversial land reform program that began around the turn of the millennium.
The dairy business thrived on lucrative contracts from state-owned companies and government agencies.
Some of its main buyers were the army, parastatal public hospitals and the police, among other state institutions.
The contracts were abruptly terminated when President Emmerson took over Mnangagwa after the coup.
Signs that the dairy business was in distress emerged a few months before Mr Mugabe’s death, when the company was forced to sell five combines, five pick-up trucks and other farm equipment in May 2019 to be auctioned.
The last auction took place on February 22, 2022.
Old vehicles and agricultural equipment such as combine harvesters came under the hammer.
Mrs. Mugabe, who retired from public life after the death of her husband has refused to speak about the family business or private life.
Some of the Mugabe family farms, of which there are an estimated 12, were taken over by Ambushed by supporters of the ruling Zanu PF party.
President Mnangagwa has previously indicated that some of the farms would be confiscated in line with the government’s one family one farm policy.