CONTROVERSIAL property mogul Frank Buyanga, accused of fraudulently seizing about 500 immovable properties in Harare through an opaque loan scheme, reportedly has close links with South African President Jacob Zuma and controversial African National Congress (ANC) bigwig Fana Hlongwane.
Buyanga, who was the director of Hamilton Property Holdings before his resignation last week was according to sources in both Zimbabwe and South Africa part of Zuma’s entourage when the president toured Russia and China last year.
The sources said the mogul was using his political links to spread his business tentacles across southern Africa.
The flashy businessman was accused in August last year of cheating 500 homeowners out of their properties through a loan scheme where the borrower would sign an agreement of sale and repay the principal loan and interest within three months.
But some of the people who accused Buyanga of seizing their properties later made a U-turn, saying they had instead sold their houses and stands to the property mogul.
A settlement agreement was later hammered out between Buyanga and the complainants’ lawyers for them to repay the businessman and retain their properties by the end of last year. The pact was not honoured and Buyanga is reportedly working on evicting the people.
Reports show Buyanga has business interests in the UK, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The operations have different names and partners.
A source said besides being close to Zuma, the opulent Buyanga was working on several business projects with Hlongwane, who until November was under an arms probe in South Africa.
The businessman has been photographed in the company of Zuma, top government and ANC officials and South African businesspeople on tour in Russia and China last year.
According to the sources, he wines and dines with Hlongwane in Johannesburg’s best restaurants.
“Buyanga is highly connected in the ANC and is currently working on some business projects with Hlongwane,” one of the sources said. “He has a good public relations disposition, which saw him being part of Zuma’s entourage.”
Efforts to get comment from Zuma’s office this week on the nature of relations between the president and Buyanga were fruitless. Questions that were sent to Zuma’s private secretary Desley Sithole were not responded to at the time of going to press.
Hlongwane had since 2006 been under probe by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in connection with alleged kickbacks in South Africa’s multibillion-rand arms deal. His name has become synonymous with a high-flying lifestyle in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs and he also goes by the name “Styles” because of his taste for the finer things in life.
Buyanga is also linked to another controversial property mogul Nicholas Van Hoogstraten, who is reportedly close to President Robert Mugabe. International media reports claim that Buyanga was fronting Hoogstraten, but the UK-born 31-year-old businessman last year vehemently denied that.
“He (Hoogstraten) is not involved in the business. How can he be involved in a mere US$10-million to US$20-million business,” Buyanga said in a rare media interview with our sister newspaper, the Standard, in August last year.
In Zambia, Buyanga is in partnership with Zimbabwe businessman Ian Haruperi who is reportedly close to President Rupiah Banda. Haruperi, Zimbabwean-born South African businessman Mutumwa Mawere and Buyanga were also part of Zuma’s entourage to Russia in August.
Haruperi’s social network page has several pictures of him, Buyanga, Zuma and other members of his entourage in Moscow.
Like Hlongwane, Buyanga has a flashy lifestyle and owns a fleet of state-of-the-art vehicles, among them a Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz SUV, Aston Martin, Bentley, Range Rover, Lamborghini and BMW.
Buyanga declined to speak to the Zimbabwe Independent and referred questions to his lawyer, Wilson Manase of Manase & Manase legal practitioners.
“I have no comment on his private life,” Manase said. “We don’t discuss his private life when we meet.”
On Buyanga’s bid to evict people who sold their immovable properties to Hamilton Property Holdings, Manase said only four out of over 50 had managed to repurchase the properties by Wednesday.
“There is no criminal case against Frank. We are in the process of reviewing the various property purchases in line with the agreement we had for their former owners to repurchase them in six months so that we put a closure on this matter,” Manase said. “Those who answered the call of repurchasing the property will have their title deeds back, those who did not will lose out.”
In a press statement last week, Hamilton Property Holdings said Buyanga had resigned and that it was going ahead to evict occupants.
The company said although various individuals and companies who sold their properties to Hamilton Property Holdings, its subsidiaries or Buyanga made reports to the police alleging the properties were fraudulently acquired, the Attorney-General’s Office had advised the company’s lawyers there was no evidence to lay criminal charges against the company.