A crack team made up of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has seized luxury homes and top-end vehicles worth over $2 billion belonging to top and former government officials.
Some of the houses and residential stands belong to town clerks and other high-level council officials drawn from Harare, Mutare and Gweru local authorities.
There have been several arrests of council bosses, including Harare town clerk Hosiah Chisango and former Mutare council boss Obert Muzawazi over a slew of allegations bordering on illegal parcelling out of stands.
The properties were taken by the state as the owners failed to account for the source of wealth and could have violated the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act.
Several houses forfeited are located in plush suburbs like Borrowdale, Greystone Park and Glen Lorne in the capital, while other homes are being forfeited in South Africa, Britain, Malaysia and Mauritius, among other countries.
Zacc head of legal affairs Jessie Majome said houses worth ZW$169 470 425 (US$2,09 million) were seized from former cabinet ministers and other high ranking government officials.
“We have seized 24 motor vehicles valued at ZW$121 500 000,00 (US$1,5 million) and have succeeded in asset forfeiture through criminal convictions six motor vehicles valued at ZW$8 185 000,00 (US$101 000),” she said.
Majome revealed that some of the houses and cars belong to former Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi, Gender Commission chairperson Margaret Sangarwe, Douglas Tapfuma ex-Principal Director State Residences, Registrar-General Clement Masango, Defence ministry director Denson Muwandi and Finance ministry accountant Simbarashe Zvineyi.
The list of top government officials who lost houses and top-of-the-range vehicles is a clear indication of how public office bearers are using their muscle to amass wealth at the expense of the economy.
Some properties that were seized together with others on the pending list are owned by Harare, Mutare and Gweru senior city council officials. The estimated value is ZW$129 685 000 (US$810 000).
Majome indicated that efforts were underway to hunt houses bought by Zimbabweans using proceeds of crime beyond the borders in South Africa and Asia, in properties worth over ZW$1 billion (US$15 million).
“Our efforts are at advanced stages through inter-agency co-operation with internationally renowned agencies that have helped recover phenomenal immovable and movable properties elsewhere in Africa and Asia to recover both immovable and movable properties in foreign jurisdictions. The estimated value of the targeted assets beyond our borders is ZW$1 106 344 186,00,” Majome said.
In 2020, the asset seizure efforts saw Zacc dealing with cases worth ZW$851 409 901,60 (US10,5 million) against an initial target of ZW$300 000 000 (US$3,7 million).
The forfeiting of ill-gotten wealth is this year targeting ZW$600 000 000 (US$7,4 million) from both government and private sector fat-cats.
In December 2020, the High Court granted a forfeiture order for a house at stand number 31843 Mabvazuva Township, Ruwa valued at ZW$9 822 000 (US$121 000).
Said Majome: “So far one of our seven matters submitted to the NPA for arguing in the High Court in terms of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act (Chapter 9:24) was heard to finality, and with success, that is, a civil forfeiture order (in rem) was granted for the immovable property with improvements of a dwelling house.
“The order was granted on 9/12/2020 by Justice (Benjamin) Chikowero. The action taken by Zacc was to refer and handover the property to the Asset Management Unit established by the same Act (Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act) and housed by the RBZ, whilst taking a keen interest on all legal issues arising such as opposition of the appeal on it, facilitating measures to prevent dissipation of the property.”
The seizure of palatial homes has affected former police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri who is contesting the forfeiture of his Gletwin jaw-dropping mansion by the state.
Former Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) chief executive Frank Chitukutuku has also lost six houses and a fleet of luxury vehicles.
Zimbabwe has lost close to US$1 billion to externalisation and money laundering as top officials spent fortunes buying mansions beyond the borders.
Efforts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to threaten the alleged looters to return the money has not yielded much, resulting in the asset seizure and forfeiture process.