PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has stopped renting a luxury property in an opulent United Arab Emirates (UAE) suburb, a top government official confirmed in reports that appeared at the weekend.
South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reported on Sunday that Mugabe, who was reportedly renting the property for his children, had since moved out.
While Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba told the Sunday Times that the Zanu PF leader had been renting the property, in 2015 it was reported that First Lady Grace Mugabe had bought a house in the same neighbourhood for around $1 million, according to a Dubai estate agent, who claimed to have sold her the property.
“As a responsible father, President Mugabe rented that property for his son, who was studying in Dubai. The property is no longer there,” Charamba said.
Mugabe’s two sons, Robert Jnr and Chatunga Bellarmine, were reportedly moved to South Africa in January this year.
The relocation followed an “August 2016 incident” involving Robert Jnr that remains shrouded in mystery.
Early this year, a legal row over the purchase of a $1,35 million diamond ring by Grace from Lebanese businessman, Jamal Ahmed, opened a can of worms, revealing that the Mugabes were paying up to $500 000 annually in rentals for the upmarket villa in Emirates Hills, Dubai.
“The second respondent’s family rents a 10-bedroomed villa at the Emirates Hills in Dubai and the address of the villa is J11. I am able to say that this is an exclusive and upmarket area, where annual rentals are around $500 000,” Ahmed revealed in court papers following the botched ring deal.
Mugabe’s ex-mansion — Villa J11 on Julnar 2 Street — is, according to the Sunday Times, down the road from Villa L35 on Lailak Street reportedly owned by South African President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma is currently in the eye of a storm, with pressure mounting on the governing African National Congress party to recall him on accusations he has allowed a family of Indian origin, the Guptas, to capture the State.
Emirates Hills boasts a championship golf course and “wide, sparkling lakes”.
The estate agent, who claimed he sold the Emirates Hills house to Grace, told the Sunday Times “anyone with a pile of cash could buy a villa in Dubai in no time, with few questions asked”.
“If you’ve got money in the bank, you can do a money transfer. If the money is in cash, which means it’s not legit, we have to find other means. But it’s not a problem,” the agent was quoted saying.
Other famous residents of Emirates Hills include Asif Ali Zardari, husband of assassinated former Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto, who in 2004 was jailed eight years for shady arms deals and money laundering, and former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, deposed by the military in 2006 before being charged with tax evasion in
Privacy, security, secrecy and discretion are the watchwords at Emirates Hills. The estate is surrounded by high walls and fences.
Access is strictly controlled and surveillance cameras track visitors.
Architectural plans must be approved by the developer, the State-backed Emaar group, that also constructed the famous Burj Khalifa.-Newsday