PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s sons — Robert Jr and Bellarmine Chatunga — have relocated to South Africa from Dubai and Harare respectively amid fears their personal security could be compromised by the high violent crime rate and a hostile environment in the neighbouring country, it has been established.
By Bernard Mpofu
Details obtained this week show Robert Jr and Chatunga have been in South Africa since the beginning of the year for studies. They are reportedly located in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial hub known for its lucrative opportunities and rampant crime at the same time.
It is also home to hundreds of thousands or even millions of Zimbabweans who fled Mugabe’s political repression and economic failure.
The First Family, like other well-to-do families in Zimbabwe, are shunning local education and health facilities for better foreign amenities.
Mugabe’s family and security sources said this week the First Family shifted their kids to South Africa for studies and a better life after Robert Jr was removed from Dubai under controversial circumstances. Chatunga was also reportedly moved to make him focus on his studies, away from Zimbabwe’s suffocating environment and his familiar social scene playground.
The sources also said the shift to South Africa, however, brought security concerns, resulting in the Mugabe family and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) chiefs beefing up the boys’ security.
“There are serious security concerns because Zimbabweans flood the retail, entertainment and recreational facilities, especially restaurants and clubs, in South Africa; particularly Joburg, so wherever they (Robert Jnr and Chatunga) go, they are likely to be served by Zimbabweans,” a source close to the First Family said.
“South Africa is generally unsafe not just for ordinary people, but also for wealthy families. Children of local prominent people have died in mysterious circumstances there.”
Former Finance minister Simba Makoni and Higher and Tertiary minister Jonathan Moyo lost their son Tonderai and daughter Zanele Naledi Ntombizodwa in mysterious circumstances in South Africa in 2003 and 2015 respectively.
In 2014, Mugabe’s nephew, Takudzwa Wesley Goronga, was found dead in a wardrobe at Monash University in Johannesburg after having gone missing for 10 days. Earlier in the same year, a female Zimbabwean student had also been found dead in her room in a hall of residence at a local university. Nozipho Tshuma’s body was discovered in her locked room at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, south of Gauteng province. Another final year student at Rhodes University was burnt to death in his apartment a day before he was scheduled to leave campus.
Sources said Mugabe’s family and security bosses fear South Africa’s crime-ridden environment is a security threat to the kids, considering that they could be targeted not just for crime, but also for political reasons. There are also fears they could also sink into South Africa’s social decadence, including drugs.
According to the World Health Organisation, 15% of South Africa’s population has a drug problem. This high level of drug abuse costs South Africa over R20 billion a year.
The statistics have earned the country the dubious reputation of being one of the drug capitals of the world. Statistics released by the Hospital Association of South Africa showed that there were growing numbers of patients younger than 20 being admitted to treatment centres.
Although the CIO has provided VIP security protection to Mugabe’s sons, their carefree lifestyle could pose a threat to them in South Africa’s volatile environment. During their stay in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s sons were known to be hectic socialites who enjoyed drinking and hanging out in upmarket nightclubs.
Sources said Robert Jr left Dubai under a cloud of controversy as questions swirled over his lifestyle and social habits in the Islamic region of the United Arab Emirates. During his stay in Dubai, Robert Jr was living in a 10-bedroom villa located in an exclusive and pricey location at a cost of US$42 000 per month. This was revealed by Lebanese businessman Jamal Ahmed who is locked in a dispute with First Lady Grace Mugabe over a botched US$1,4 million diamond ring deal.
Before relocating to the Persian Gulf emirates, he was in China where he reportedly dropped out of a military academy as he couldn’t cope with the rigours of training. Last October, the Zimbabwe Independent reported that Robert Jr had approached BancABC in August seeking information on a maize importation facility at a time the country faced one of its worst droughts induced by the El Niño phenomenon.
Chatunga, who has been running businesses in the entertainment and meat processing sectors, has also been sent to South Africa to pursue studies away from local distractions.
Contacted for comment, Police Protection Unit commanding officer Lee Muchemwa referred all questions to national police spokesperson Charity Charamba who, in turn, said all queries should be directed to the Foreign Affairs ministry. Efforts to get a comment from the ministry were in vain.
First Family spokesperson Olga Bungu could not be reached for comment as her mobile phone went unanswered. A message sent to her phone was not responded to at the time of going to print.