One of the country’s decorated liberation war icons, retired Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena, is entangled in an acrimonious divorce with his wife of 31 years, who is claiming in court papers that the ex-Zanla fighter has abandoned his family and moved in with a “mistress” who used to be his subordinate while he was still in service
According to the High Court papers, Muchena who retired from the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) in June 2010 to join the Zanu PF commissariat department as principal director, effective January 2011, is the one who filed the application, claiming that the marriage with Mildred Muchena, nee Ndunduma, had irretrievably broken down.
He told the court that the two customarily married in August 1986, before the marriage was solemnised in terms of the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11) on December 19, 1987.
“The marriage between the parties has broken down irretrievably and there are no prospects of the restoration of a normal marriage relationship . . .,” Muchena said, adding that they have not lived together as husband and wife since 1999.
During the subsistence of their marriage, Muchena said that they acquired a Toyota Landcruiser, household goods, a residential property at number 51 Newstead Road, Marlborough, Harare and Seruwi Drift Farm.
However, Mildred, in her summary of evidence said the challenges in their marriage began when Muchena started dating a subordinate, which she became aware of in 1999.
During that time, she said Muchena started commuting between his matrimonial home and his mistress’ residence, adding that the mistress would harass her through abusive phone calls.
Her appeals to Muchena to censor his mistress failed to yield results, the court heard, before he totally moved out of the matrimonial home.
She said she thought the affair was a passing phase but was shocked to receive divorce summons.
“She will testify that the affair coincided with the plaintiff (Muchena) starting to neglect his family to an extent that the parties’ child who had been sent to Cyprus for tertiary education could not finish her course as plaintiff had not paid her fees, a development which stressed the child immensely.
“The child had to return to Zimbabwe and still owes the Cyprus institution some money and she has since registered herself for a degree through Zimbabwe Open University where she is self-funding,” Mildred said.
She further told the court that when Muchena left the matrimonial home, he took all the motor vehicles to an extent that she and the children started using public transport, while her husband’s mistress and son were allowed free access to the cars.
“She will testify that the assets of the parties ought to be equally shared, particularly given the plaintiff’s gross marital misconduct in embarking on an affair, ill-treating her and the children by making inadequate provision for their well-being, frittering away income that would have accrued to the family by renting northern suburb houses for the mistress’ accommodation, failing to pay the children’s fees and generally failing to treat the family with the love and compassion as is expected amongst family members,” Mildred said.
She said she retired from the City of Harare in September 2016, without receiving her terminal benefits and is diabetic, has high blood pressure and has also been diagnosed with breast cancer.
When she retired, she said that she had not been paid for eight months and is currently relying on $180 that she receives from Nssa on a monthly basis, adding that the money is not adequate for her upkeep, medical fees and rates.
She said she requires $500 as contribution towards her maintenance and $250 each for their two children.
She will dispute the plaintiff’s pleas of poverty and will point out that plaintiff operates a farm, which is supposed to be a commercial venture and that he gets income there from.
“In addition, he sits on various remunerative boards where he receives regular board fees in addition to receiving a salary from his employment with the ruling party. His pension is therefore a small part of his income,” she said.
She contested the list of property by Muchena, claiming the listed assets were not the only assets they acquired during the subsistence of their marriage.
She demanded the Marlborough and Gweru properties, a Nissan Hardbody, Mercedes Benz E200, Mercedes Benz C200 and that they share equally the Glen Lorne property.
The matter was brought for a pre-trial conference before High Court judge Erica Ndewere on Monday.
Muchena is one of the ex-combatants who distinguished themselves during the war of liberation that ended with the attainment of independence from Britain in April 1980.
He was a Zanla combatant, who joined the Zimbabwe National Army at independence, and later transferred to AFZ, where he served until his retirement in June 2010.
One of his major highlights in his illustrious career in the force was his appointment as Air Vice Marshal in 2002.
Upon retiring from active military service, Muchena was appointed principal director in the Zanu PF commissariat department, with responsibility of revamping the ruling party’s structures.
Soon after the 2013 polls, unverified reports suggest that the old guard in the commissariat section were shunted aside, hence Muchena, along with other veterans, have been floating at the Zanu PF headquarters with no specific mandate.
Muchena currently serves on several boards, among them Zimpost and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
He is the latest in a list of Zanu PF bigwigs to be embroiled in an acrimonious divorce with their wives.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo and his wife, Sibonokuhle Getrude Moyo, had a nasty divorce that ended their 32-year marriage, which they agreed had irretrievably broken down.
The decree of divorce was granted by Harare High Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo after both parties accepted that their relationship had broken down to an extent that there were no prospects for the restoration of a normal marriage.
Former deputy Finance minister David Chapfika is also divorcing his wife of over 32 years, Abina (nee Mutimusakwa), who is accusing Zanu PF Mutoko South Member of Parliament of being a womaniser, who was threatening her with “bloodshed” if she went public with the issue.
Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo also divorced his former wife Marian, who has since fallen on hard times and cannot afford to pay back a long-standing debt to CBZ Bank after she was declared “a person of no means”.
Other high-profile divorce cases that spilled into the public domain in recent years include that of Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga, who divorced his ex-wife Jocelyn (nee Mauchaza).
Former Environment minister Francis Nhema also divorced his wife of 20 years, Louise Sehlule, who was daughter to revered liberation war hero, Joshua Nkomo