17 June 2012

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Prepares for Hiding?

Photo: Al Jazeera English
President Robert Mugabe.

A close associate of President Robert Mugabe, Robert Mhlanga, has been ordered to stop work on his R200 million mansion next to the plush Zimbali golfing estate near Ballito.

According to a South African newspaper, Saturday Star, Mhlanga was building a luxury mansion with an underground bunker in Ballito, KwaZulu Natal and was recently ordered to stop work on the property.

Mhlanga is Mugabe's former personal helicopter pilot and is mentioned in two Global Witness 2010 and 2012 reports on diamonds in Zimbabwe.

Rumoured to be a bolthole for Mugabe, court papers have revealed the R200 million compound is being built by Mhlanga, through his company Formate (Pty) Ltd.

KwaDukuza Municipality obtained a high court order to stop construction and occupation of the mansion, next to the plush Zimbali estate, because of the potential impact on neighbouring properties and the environment.

The interim order was granted on May 16 in the Durban High Court.

But Mugabe's spokesperson, George Charamba, yesterday dismissed the article.

"There is no substance to that. The only relationship between them (Mugabe and Mhlanga) is the name Robert and that they are Zimbabweans," he said.

The heavily guarded development comprises two man-made lakes, a renovated existing mansion, complete with bullet proof windows and an underground bunker.

Municipal building control officer, Njabulo Ngwane, said when the municipality became aware of the development in April, he had gone to inspect the site.

"The properties were fenced and guarded but we were denied access."

Mhlanga was a prosecution witness in the 2003 treason trial of Morgan Tsvangarai and is reported to have been chief of staff operations at the National Command Centre, which controlled the announcement of voting results in the disputed 2002 presidential election, according to Global Witness.

Efforts to get a comment from Mhlanga were fruitless yesterday.

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