16 February 2017

Zimbabwe: Phillip Chiyangwa's Senior School Shuts Down

Photo: Phillip Chiyangwa Facebook
Flamboyant businessman Philip Chiyangwa.

FLAMBOYANT businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa, has closed Divaris Makaharis senior school owing to viability problems.

Built in Harare's suburb of Bluffhill, the senior school did not open for the 2017 first term amid indications that it failed to recover from last year's massive exodus of pupils and teachers to other schools.

Insiders at the school said the senior section had been left with just six pupils and eight teachers when schools closed at the end of last year. A few returned for the 2017 academic year, which started on January 10, but after four days, they were advised that the school was closing.

When the team from the Financial Gazette arrived at the school, the premises were as quiet as a graveyard: The cacophony of excited chatter synonymous with schools was absent. The 28 classrooms were all glaringly empty.

There was no soul in sight except for two security personnel guarding the premises.

It was a sharp contrast to the primary school next door where pupils could be seen going about their business.

Relentless efforts to get a comment from the school authorities proved futile as they were reluctant to talk.

The principal was said to be in endless meetings and the Financial Gazette was then referred to Marshall Jonga, who is said to be in charge of the whole institution.

Jonga appeared to be terminating calls made to him without him answering.

This paper then sought comment from Chiyangwa who did not answer, but later returned the calls frothing.

"How do you feel when bad things are said about you? What interests do you have in my business and how I run my things? Answer me.

"Are you a shareholder? If I move my bed from this corner to that corner in my house, how does that affect you? ... . I heard everything about you and that you have written a lot of bad things about the school," he fumed and immediately terminated the call.

Sources said standards at the once famed school started deteriorating when teachers went for months without pay, leading to most parents and guardians withdrawing their children because they felt that the low standards were no longer matching the US$1 200 tuition fees per term.

Indiscipline in the pupils had also crept into the school, further eroding its reputation.

In 2014, teachers at Divaris Makaharis senior school threatened to protest over salary arrears of six months and Chiyangwa, who is known for his affluent lifestyle, offered them residential stands at Harare's Stoneridge.

The teachers, however, turned down the offer upon realising that the residential stands were not serviced.

The disgruntled teachers proceeded with industrial action, which attracted much media attention.

The closure of the school belonging to one of Zimbabwe's richest and colourful character, Chiyangwa, could as well help as a key indicator of how far the country's economy has fallen.

Chiyangwa is regarded as the sixth richest person in the country with a net worth of about US$288 million according to estimates by a South African publication, The South African.

Estimates also suggest that the 58-year old property mogul, who has also ventured into sports administration, holds in excess of 12 000 hectares of land around the country and has shareholding in 39 companies and over 100 properties.

Chiyangwa's other investments at engineering firm, ZECO holdings is also facing viability challenges with the 2016 financial results showing a heavy loss of US$867 000.

Chiyangwa is also the Zimbabwe Football Association president.

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