What is most concerning is not just her rate and scale of property acquisitions, but also the source of funding. Where is the money coming from?
QUESTIONS are being raised over the source of funds used by First Lady Grace Mugabe to buy a R45 million (US$3,5 million) mansion in South Africa (pictured) amid indications that taxpayers’ money could have been partially or wholly used to acquire the property.
By Elias Mambo
This comes against the backdrop of reports that Grace splurged more than US$8 million on palatial homes in exclusive suburbs in the neighbouring country. Treasury sources this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that taxpayers’ money could have been used to purchase the properties.
“What is most concerning is not just her rate and scale of property acquisitions, but also the source of funding. Where is the money coming from?” a senior official in the Treasury department said.
“I am almost certain that public funds were used to acquire the property, this is not different from the trucks scandal that spilled into courts,” the official said.
In 2011, Grace and her former business partner, Ping Sung — a Taiwanese-born South African — bought trucks, trailers and equipment worth almost US$1 million with money transferred through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Grace and Hsieh were later engaged in a fight over a US$5 million mansion in Hong Kong. The row over the Hong Kong home apparently erupted after a dispute over a gold mine in Chinhoyi.
Reports in the South African media and separate checks by the Independent — which has been investigating Grace’s property story and her sons’ escapades in Johannesburg — show that she has been renting a huge property owned by Angolan immigrants for R200 000 (more than US$15 000) a month. Investigations and reports show the rented six-bedroomed property is Number 27a Coronation Road, Sandhurst, Sandton’s most affluent suburb. Sandton is the richest square in Africa
The house was valued at R40 million (US$3 million). Reports say Grace has bought a property around the corner in Sandhurst for R45 million (US$3,5 million) and was also negotiating to buy another.
Checks by the Independent showed the property is located at Number 37 Killarney Road. The price of the property on Killarney Road could go up to a whopping R49 million (US$3,7 million) when transfer costs, renovations and finishings are added.
Grace has been splurging millions of dollars despite the fact that her business empire under the Gushungo Holdings’ Alpha and Omega Dairies banner is in the doldrums, incurring perennial losses since 2013.
President Robert Mugabe said his family has had to get loans to recapitalise the struggling dairy business. In January, the Independent reported the first family was paying US$500 000 per year for a property in Dubai where Robert Junior was at the time still based. Around April, Robert Junior unceremoniously left the rich emirate for South Africa where he was joined by his young brother Bellarmine Chatunga.