By Mutsa Makuvaza
CONTROVERSIAL businessman Douglas Kwande who is a close ally of President Mnangagwa has availed 600 heifers which will be handed over to 600 ruling party youths by the President this Friday afternoon in Kwekwe.
The event, dubbed Midlands Youths Livestock Hub, will be launched by the President at DCK Farm on the outskirts of Kwekwe.
The youths are selected from across the country, and the project is believed to be going to be taken to other provinces across the country as well.
Kwande owns Douglas and Claris Kwande (DCK) investments, which runs and owns retails businesses, Zimbabwe Glass Holdings (Zimglass) in Gweru as well as DCK Bakeries.
Claris is Kwande’s long-time wife and business partner.
Although Zimglass closed shop in 2010, Kwande reportedly bought it for US$22m in 2019 from the state-run Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), but reportedly failed to turn it around and subsequently converted its premises into a cattle pen, much to the chagrin of the workers at the Gweru-based company which was Zimbabwe’s sole producer of glass.
At its peak, Zimglass 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 before its sprawling 10-hectare premises located along Bristol Road were turned by Kwande into grazing land and a cattle pen for his hundreds of cattle.
Born and raised in Sanyati, Kwande started his businesses in Gweru in the late 1990s where he was a teacher as well as a cotton buyer or agent.
In 2002, he left teaching and went into the buying and selling business full-time. He opened the first DCK Supermarket in Kadoma in 2004 and by 2006 had another DCK Supermarket outlet in Gweru. He also bought some buildings in the Midlands capital that same year as his businesses grew.
Kwande also operates a farm near Kwekwe, the DCK Farm, where the President will be hosted this Friday. The farm grows wheat, rears livestock among other agricultural activities. HourlyHits was not able to get responses on how Kwande source the 600 heifers which the President will dole out to 600 ruling party youths this week.
Ten years later, Kwande was into bakery business as well as milling. He ventured into wheat farming, possibly seeking to get control of the value chain.
Kwande shot to fame in 2019 when he was pictured sitting next to President Mnangagwa in the presidential SUV vehicle, right next to the President’s slices of bread. At the time, bread prices were high and the Government was at loggerheads with millers who it accused of seeking to use the prices to squeeze the Zanu PF Government out of power.
Zanu PF even advertised its own clay ovens and presented them to communities as a substitute to the traditional bread from well-known bakers.
Kwande was invited to a Cabinet meeting sometime in 2020 where he was given an opportunity to tell Ministers how he was making cheaper bread from exclusively local resources. DCK Bakeries then shot into fame, offering bread at half the prices of other bakers.
The business model appeared to have backfired as DCK bread disappeared from the shops months later, while the traditional bakers reclaimed their market share and prices stabilized.
While his product was becoming unpopular with the customers, Kwande also ran into problems with the Gweru City Council which hosts the majority of his businesses. Gweru Mayor Josiah Makombe lamented the deal between IDC and Kwande which he said was in violation of the City’s by-laws which bans the keeping of cattle in the city.
Kwande has also set up grinding mills at Zimglass where he was processing his Premier maize meal brand, and Makombe said the grinding mills were not properly licensed as per city regulations.
In the Zimglas deal, Kwande also got the industrial sand claim some 10km outside Gweru from where sand used for making glass was to be obtained. However, instead of keeping the sand for glass making, his businesses reportedly sold the sand to poachers who in turn sold it to home builders and brick moulders.