By Elizabeth Mashiri /Masvingo Mirror
GWERU – Prominent Gweru businessman Douglas Kwande who is said to be close to President Mnangagwa has turned the premises of Zimbabwe Glass Holdings (Zimglass) which he bought for US$22m in 2019 into a cattle pen after failing to deliver on a turnaround programme he promised.
He bought the company from the state-run Industrial Development Corporation but workers have dismissed as cheap propaganda claims that he paid US$22m.
Zimglass, Zimbabwe’s sole producer of glass used to export to Malawi and Zambia, churning out 120 tonnes per week and employing 500 workers. It was one of the biggest companies in Gweru run by the state-owned IDC.
The Mirror visited the company and established that the sprawling 10-hectare premises located along Bristol
Road in Gweru are now used as grazing and a cattle pen for Kwande’s 100 herds of cattle.
Patrick Chirombo a former HR Officer at Zimglass said it was painful to see the giant company sinking further into abyss.
He attacked Government for giving the company to someone who has no capacity.
Gweru Mayor Josiah Makombe lamented the deal between IDC and Kwande as an economic disaster for Gweru. Zimglass closed shop in 2010.
The arrangement is a violation of the City’s by-laws which bans the keeping of cattle in the city.
The Mirror established that Kwande has also set up grinding mills at Zimglass where he is processing Premier maize meal that is sold in his …………supermarkets.
Kwande acquired the company through his Brainman Investments at a time when the new dispensation under President Mnangagwa promised a quick fix of defunct companies including CSC, Shabani Mashaba Mines and Zisco.
Kwande requested a face-to-face interview with The Mirror but failed to show up on numerous occasions.
Makombe said that it is illegal for Kwande to keep cattle in the city and a team of council workers would be dispatched to investigate.
He said the grinding mills must be properly licensed for them to operate.
The glass produced by Zimglass was mainly sold to Delta Beverages, African Distillers, Mutare Bottling Company, Straitia Investments, Olivine Industries, Datlabs and E. Snell and Company.
“It is sad for the city and the country that the firm was bought by someone who cannot revive it. Obviously we needed an investor who comes to create jobs and wealth,” said Makombe.
Residents who spoke to The Mirror said Government assets in Gweru have become fruits for easy picking by those connected to Zanu PF leadership.
Moses Chikwadzi, a former secretary for the workers’ committee said Zimglass remains a strategic company to the country and called for an immediate intervention.
He said that hundreds of workers including some who worked for the company for 30 years walked out of the company empty handed. The understanding was that the workers were going to be paid their benefits from the proceeds of the sale of the company.
“It’s painful and l feel like crying. All workers walked out with nothing. We must be paid our benefits from the US$22m that IDC received from Kwande,” said Chikwadzi.
Chirombo dismissed the US$22m tag on the company and said there is evidence from lawyers that the company was sold for a song. He said it went for RTGS$22m
He described the price as peanuts considering that the company has machinery worth millions of dollars.
The Mirror understands that Kwande also got the industrial sand claim some 10km outside Gweru.
This is where sand used for making glass is obtained but instead of keeping the sand for glass making, this is now being sold to those building houses and moulding bricks.