20 August 2017

Zimbabwe: Who Funds Mugabes' Lavish Lifestyles?

Photo: Antoine de Ras/Sapa
President Robert Mugabe with his wife Grace (file photo).

First lady Grace Mugabe's shameful behaviour in South Africa where she allegedly assaulted a model she found in a hotel room with her wayward sons, inadvertently helped bring back to the fore the first family's extravagant lifestyle.

Grace landed herself in hot soup last week when she allegedly assaulted Gabriella Engels with an extension cord, leaving her with deep wounds on her face and scalp.

South African police have been investigating the case but there are now strong indications that President Robert Mugabe's wife will escape prosecution because she enjoys diplomatic immunity.

However, the case has opened a can of worms as it has exposed how Mugabe's two sons -- Robert Jnr and Bellarmine Chatunga -- are living large in the neighbouring country.

The two were recently evicted from a very expensive Johannesburg apartment for their regular wild parties where alcohol was allegedly abused and they regularly entertained women.

Grace has been in South Africa for almost two weeks, where she is said be arranging alternative accommodation for her two sons who now live in top-of-the-range hotels in that country's economic capital.

Last week, South African media and our sister paper -- the Zimbabwe Independent -- reported that Mugabe's family has been renting a property in the Sandton area where they are paying about $15 000 a month.

A South African newspaper -- The Star -- reported that the first lady allegedly splashed R45 million ($3,5 million) on a property in the same neighbourhood.

Sandton is the richest square in Africa. The same paper reported that Grace has also been buying expensive properties in Harare.

The spending spree by the president's wife and her two sons' lifestyle in South Africa is a slap in the face for millions of Zimbabweans now wallowing in poverty because of Mugabe's misrule.

Their lifestyle proves that claims that Mugabe is a selfless leader who puts the interests of the downtrodden ahead of his own is a façade.

Mugabe is in the league of Zaire's Mobuto Seseko, Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola and Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, whose singular goal in hanging on to power longer than necessary was or is to enrich their families.

Since 2000, Grace has grabbed thousands of hectares of prime land in the Mazowe area from productive commercial farmers and at least one listed company to build her own business empire. Stories of her expensive shopping sprees in foreign countries are endless.

The commercial venture in Mazowe, however, has not been very profitable to sustain such a lifestyle and this begs the question -- where does she get the millions of United States dollars she is splashing on properties? Mugabe's salary is also too little for a Hollywood type of lifestyle.

Therefore, Zimbabweans deserve to know where the president and his wife get the money which they use to spoil their children in foreign lands when the rest of the country cannot access foreign currency for essential services.

On the other hand, the debacle in South Africa may help explain Mugabe's apparent lack of appreciation of why thousands of Zimbabweans continue to risk their lives crossing the crocodile-infested Limpopo River in search of a better life in the neighbouring country.

The president's family is insulated from the economic problems we have to endure everyday and they live in obscene luxury.

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