Former President Robert Mugabe’s wealth will be revealed in a few days, putting to rest much speculation and conjecture.
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This week the Master of the High Court is expected to give the full list of what he owned, including investments, houses, cash and gifts ranging from cattle, precious minerals and even wild animals.
The estate, if published in full, will either confirm or put paid to various truths and untruths held by the public. A Government gazette published on November 15 confirmed the registration of the estate.
“Notice is hereby given that the estate of the under-mentioned deceased persons, minors or persons whose whereabouts are unknown, are unrepresented and that the next of kin, creditors or other persons concerned are required to attend on the dates and at the times and places specified, for the selection of an executor, tutor or curator dative, as the case may be,” read the notice, which appeared with Cde Mugabe’s name.
Cde Mugabe died in Singapore on September 6 after battling ill-health since April. He was 95.
His widow, Grace, daughter Bona and sons, Robert Jnr and Bellarmine Chatunga, are likely to be beneficiaries of whatever the late former President left behind. Although his private life was largely considered inscrutable, various incidences, court cases and reports from foreign publications gave a sneak peek to the extent of his possessions.
Sources privy to the compilation of Cde Mugabe’s estate told our Harare Bureau that at least three law firms — Uriri Attorneys-at-Law; DSL, a security services outfit; and Venturas and Samkange Legal Practitioners — are responsible for the onerous task. So taxing is the job, they further add, that it might not be possible to complete the task by Thursday.
“The date that the estate is expected to be registered by 9.30am is not possible anymore as there is still so much that needs to be put together by the different law firms. Maybe in the next three weeks . . . There is so much that still needs to be compiled.”
It is believed that part of Cde Mugabe’s wealth, as an avid farmer then, includes “5 000 cattle from farms in Mwenezi, Norton, Hurungwe, Chivhu and Beitbridge”, 11 combine harvesters and “many houses donated to him since 1980, and buildings not just in Harare, but all over Zimbabwe”.
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Added the source: “Here in Harare (Cde) Mugabe owned whole blocks of buildings in some streets . . . The estate is so vast those boys (Cde Mugabe’s two sons) do not have to work a single day if everything is accounted for . . .”
However, so varied are accounts of his riches that while Celebrity Net Worth — a reputable publication that tracks the wealth of celebrities and influential people — put his worth at US$20 million, in 2001 United States authorities estimated it to be over US$1,7 billion.
Some close family members, who elected to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter, told our Harare Bureau that some of Cde Mugabe’s wealth had already been divided up and might never be made public.
Family spokesperson Mr Walter Chidhakwa recently told this publication that the late revolutionary’s belongings were distributed in accordance with traditional custom at a memorial held in Zvimba on October 19.
The family flagship property, the palatial Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale, is valued around US$9 million. However, Blue Roof and the Mount Pleasant house were both Zanu-PF properties. They are currently being transferred to the family.
It is unclear whether they will be included in Cde Mugabe’s estate.
Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Simon Khaya Moyo said the process of regularising the properties had begun as soon as the President Mnangagwa gave the order.
“The President is a man of his word. Have you heard the Mugabes complaining?” Cde Khaya Moyo confirmed.
Talk of offshore properties in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and South Africa could not be independently verified by last week. Again, there are claims that the family owns 16 commercial farms.
But, even if confirmed, it would be difficult to add these properties to Cde Mugabe’s estate as they are considered State land.
Using information already in the public domain, material from confidential sources and scouring the internet, our Harare Bureau unpacks some of Cde Mugabe’s wealth.
Local immovable properties
The Blue Roof mansion sits on a sprawling property situated in a neighbourhood that boasts of some of the country’s most expensive properties. When Zanu-PF bought the land in 1999 and donated it to its then First Secretary, the Mugabes extended it by buying five adjacent properties. It has a lake and a zoo/game park carrying the choicest animals from Zimbabwe’s wild.
The property reportedly has 25 bedrooms with ensuite and spas, a series of offices, reception rooms, a large outdoor pool, a massive dining room that can seat more than 30 guests, a large master bedroom and a multimillion-dollar radar system. When put together, the land value, actual house and the contents of both the house and the “mini game park” could be worth a fortune.
There is also the Mt Pleasant house along Quorn Avenue, which was donated to Mrs Bona Mugabe-Chikore – Cde Mugabe’s elder daughter – after her marriage on March 1 2014. It is relatively modest, yet is worth so much.
“It still sits in a prime area, and the fact that its previous owner is the late President sets it apart from other properties. Improvements made there, including security systems, make this a high-value property,” said a real estate agent, who declined to be named.
Amai Mugabe Group of Schools, which offer educational services to both day and boarding students from primary to high school, are also a multimillion-dollar investment that is part of the portfolio. They sit on extensive grounds and have top-notch infrastructure, sports facilities, hostels that resemble hotel rooms and state-of-the-art classroom furniture.
And then there is the Highfield property that was bought when Cde Mugabe was still a teacher. It still has pre-independence bullet holes and is considered a historical monument. The Gweru house in Woodlands Park that was built and handed over to Cde Mugabe was also turned into a museum of sorts. It tells the story of Robert Mugabe through pictures. Our Harare Bureau can authoritatively confirm that is will be included as part of Cde Mugabe’s properties as well.
In addition, the Mugabes reportedly made substantial amounts of money from their farming ventures.
The late President was a cattle rancher of note and on his 89th and 90th birthdays he received 89 and 90 beasts, respectively, from former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono.
A small glimpse of the Mugabes wealth came to light in 2015 when a dispute over ownership of a US$6 million luxury villa situated inside the JC Castle in the Tai Po district of Hong Kong spilled into the courts.
The South China Morning Post revealed the value of the property, believed to have been bought in 2013.
Further, former First Lady Grace Mugabe’s decision to sue a diamond dealer, Lebanese businessman Mr Jamal Joseph Ahmed, after a fallout over a US$1,3 million 100-carat diamond ring in 2016 also set tongues wagging.
Also, in 2017 news reports from South Africa claiming that Mrs Mugabe spent 45 million rand on a 9 249-square-metre villa in Sandhurst, in the posh suburb of Sandton, also captured the imagination of many people. They are many other properties that were linked to the former First Family.
Perhaps the most interesting court case was the one in which four suspects — Constance Mugabe (50), Saymore Nheketwa (47), Andrew Mahumbe (37) and Johannes Mapurisa (50) — were hauled before Chinhoyi Magistrate Mr Tawengwa Chibanda in January this year for stealing a black Polo Club briefcase that had US$1 million in it. Apparently, the briefcase had been put in Cde Mugabe library at his rural home in 2016.
The family’s best-known business besides farming and a school is Gushungo Holdings, which has several subsidiaries, including Alpha Omega Dairy. Notwithstanding debts, the company’s assets alone could be worth several millions of US dollars.
Pricey toys, trinkets
The Mugabes own several top-of-the-range vehicles, some of which the late former President used while in office. His custom-made Mercedes S600L built to withstand AK-47 bullets, landmines and grenades is now parked at the Blue Roof. It now has new number plates. -sundaynews