FOLLOWING the recent military intervention which brought to a dramatic end former president Robert Mugabe’s 37-year-old rule, his family is now scattered across different countries, while their multi-million dollar businesses and deals face collapse.
By Bernard Mpofu/Elias Mambo
The Mugabe family has a multi-million-dollar empire built around numerous farms, prime real estate, various businesses and lucrative tenders which they wrested for self-aggrandisement.
The family also benefitted heavily directly and indirectly from public funds during Mugabe’s endless globe-trotting trips.
On some occasions the family used public funds to acquire private assets.
By mid-year, Mugabe had overspent on travel by US$23 million. His budget was US$30, but he spent US$53 million on largely futile foreign trips. Overall, his office had a US$43 million budget overrun.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent show that Mugabe’s wife Grace used to siphon millions during the trips.
“On one occasion this year, for instance, his wife took about US$3,5 million during a foreign trip,” a senior Treasury official said this week. “There is also another example; the money used to buy their mansion in Sandhurst, Sandton, Johannesburg in South Africa came from public funds through local banks. At one point Grace also demanded that Patrick Chinamasa (who was Finance minister and still is) buys cars for her and he had to find the money.
These are just a few examples, but there was a pattern or systematic looting of public funds. Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe officials know this.”
Sources close to the family told the Independent that while Mugabe and Grace still remain holed up in their Blue Roof mansion in Harare, their children have been scattered by the political upheavals which engulfed Zimbabwe recently leading to their dramatic loss of power.
The sources said Mugabe’s step son, Russel Goreraza, who is Grace’s first child with her former husband and hence the former president’s step son, is the only one who is still in Harare.
Their daughter Bona, son-in-law Simba Chikore and grandson Simbanashe left for Malaysia on Friday last week. Bona is said to be expecting her second child. Mugabe’s party-loving boys Robert Junior and Bellarmine Chatunga are staying at their affluent Sandhurst mansion. In fact, they have two properties there and were contemplating buying another one.
Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao (pictured) is also holed up in Johannesburg after failing to return home from a trip to Argentina in the aftermath of the military takeover. His family members have reportedly joined him in South Africa.
Grace’s allies and former cabinet ministers Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, as well as their families, who sought refuge at the Blue Roof after the army intervention, have also left the country. They are understood to be in Kenya. Moyo and Kasukuwere’s families had remained in the country, but fled after the military raided their homes for the second time last Thursday. The army initially stormed their homes in the wee hours of November 15.
Zhuwao has been condemning the military action from South Africa, while Moyo has of late been tweeting his condemnation of the military “coup” as well.
Although Mugabe and Grace appear to be quiet in the public domain, the former First Lady has been complaining behind-the-scenes about how her family and the families of her allies have been treated. She has also been complaining about threats to her businesses and property, citing the terms of agreement secretly reached as part of the deal for Mugabe to resign.
Informed sources said Grace has been relaying her complaints and protests to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga mainly through mediators, Catholic cleric Father Fidelis Mukonori and former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono.
Mugabe resigned on Tuesday last week after being granted full immunity and was given a US$10 million exit package, full monthly salary, medical cover, security as well as protection of his private properties. Mugabe’s ouster has left the family business empire facing collapse. For instance, last week Grace complained about disruptive activities around Manzou, Sigaru and other farms which they own as a family. His removal has also cut away rent-seeking opportunities. For example, Russell and his business partner Valentine Garacho imported seven top-of-the-range vehicles worth about US$2,5 million three months ago after brokering a controversial mining deal between government and a Kazakhstan company, Todal Mining, which owns platinum concessions between Shurugwi and Zvishavane.
The cars include two Rolls-Royce, two Range Rovers, two Mercedes-Benz S-Class and an Aston Martin.
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 central bank. 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. The Mugabe family has also raked in millions through dodgy tenders. Simba and his wife — who have been building a huge mansion in Harare — reportedly have an interest in the US$2 billion Beitbridge-Harare project. Early this month government began secretly winding down struggling flag carrier Air Zimbabwe’s operations through the back door as a new company with an opaque shareholding structure prepared to take to the sky. Simba is reportedly behind the Zimbabwe Airways project which would have led to Air Zimbabwe’s demise.
Simba’s brother Derrick Chikore is involved in a dodgy US$200 million Dema energy deal which did not go through tender. All these opportunities are now gone.
Grace’s Mazowe empire includes an opulent double-storey mansion on Mapfeni Farm, which can be seen from Manzou Farm where she has been evicting thousands of villagers since 2011 to establish a game park. There is also a dairy farm, orphanage, a school and a proposed US$1 billion dollar private university project to be funded by public funds.
Grace has also grabbed land which belonged to the former Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed agro-producer, Interfresh’s Mazowe Citrus Estate.