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Robert and Grace Mugabe's US$1 billion fortune

by Mail Online
08 Sep 2019 at 08:26hrs | Views
Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace built up a huge personal fortune and property empire while their countrymen suffered in the starvation and grinding poverty that his brutal regime brought about.

Mugabe, who died in Singapore today at the age of 95, owned a lavish 25-bedroom mansion in Harare and a luxury villa in Hong Kong while his playboy sons lived in luxury in Dubai and South Africa.

Leaked diplomatic cables estimated the family wealth at more than $1billion, including six residences and a series of farms around the country.

The controversial land seizures which the Zimbabwean President claimed would distribute land to poor black people also boosted the Mugabes' own property empire, while causing economic crisis.

The Mugabe mansion in Harare's Borrowdale suburb became known as the Blue Roof house for its turquoise tiles imported from China.

Set in extensive grounds, the property had 25 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and spas, massive reception rooms and a series of offices.

It was rarely pictured and there were severe penalties for taking photographs of the presidential home.

Originally built to house the ruling white elite during the colonial era, it is now home to Zimbabwe's leadership and Mugabe's successor Emmerson Mnangagwa also has a home there.

The Mugabes also had use of the official State House.

One U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks said that ‘the full extent of President Mugabe's assets are unknown, but are rumoured to exceed $1billion in value'. That was in 2001.

The cable also revealed that an engineering firm chaired by Mugabe's nephew had won a contract to build a new airport terminal in Harare.

The Zimbabwean President was thought to have made millions of U.S. dollars from the deal.

On top of that, the Mugabes bought a £4million villa in Hong Kong in 2008, just as his reign appeared under threat in a controversial election.

They purchased the three-storey villa after Mugabe's 20-year-old daughter began studying at the University of Hong Kong, according to reports at the time.

That year Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote against his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

But Tsvangirai dropped out of the second round after a campaign of violence against his supporters and Mugabe sneaked back into power.

Grace Mugabe was known for her shopping and holiday trips to Asia, including Hong Kong and Bangkok, and earned the nickname ‘Gucci Grace'.

The former first lady set up a school and ran a dairy farm in Mazowe, projects that she said would boost Zimbabwe's devastated economy but were widely seen as an attempt to build a business empire for personal gain.

Land reform was supposed to take much of the country's most fertile land – owned by about 4,500 white descendants of mainly British and South African colonial-era settlers – and redistribute it to poor black people.

Instead, Mugabe gave prime farms to ruling party leaders, party loyalists, security chiefs, relatives and cronies.

Many of the most profitable farms ended up in the hands of well-connected public figures including Mugabe's wife, Grace.

Robert Mugabe was reported at the time to have given 15 of the stolen farms to himself.

Grace is also believed to own houses in South Africa, Dubai and Singapore.

In August 2017, Grace was accused of beating the ‘hell out of' a young South African model who was partying with her sons in Johannesburg.

But last December, it was claimed Grace – whose property portfolio is worth more than £50million – had not paid her farm workers for three months.

That came after about 400 illegal gold miners invaded one of her farms in March 2018, and allegedly uprooted lemon trees, digging shafts and put gold ore on lorries.

The reports of her lavish spending and explosive temper earned her the title ‘Dis-Grace' – and eyebrows were raised in 2014 when she gained a PhD in three months.

In the last months of Mugabe's rule the family's lavish ways became outlandish, even to Zimbabwe's jaded public.

Grace Mugabe pressed a lawsuit against a Lebanese diamond dealer in which she charged she had paid him for a 100-carat diamond but he only gave her a gem of 30 carats.

One of the couple's sons posted images on social media of himself pouring champagne over his diamond-encrusted watch.

The first family's antics made uncomfortable viewing in a country which Mugabe's regime had reduced to a basket case.

The farm seizures helped ruin one of Africa's most dynamic economies, with a collapse in agricultural foreign exchange earnings unleashing hyperinflation.

Inflation reached billions of per cent at the height of the crisis before the local currency was scrapped in favour of the US dollar.

Will ‘Gucci' Grace Mugabe now be prosecuted? Dictator's widow faces arrest for stealing Zimbabwe's wealth and sharing it with her playboy sons after the death of her husband and protector

Grace Mugabe could now face prosecution for crimes committed while her husband Robert was in power following his death today aged 95.

The 55-year-old former secretary, who is known as ‘Gucci Grace' for her fondness for luxury shopping, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in a desperately impoverished country.

Grace, who was by her husband's side when he died in Singapore, had been given immunity along with Mugabe by military authorities in Zimbabwe in November 2017.

But current president Emmerson Mnangagwa then told the BBC in January 2018 how he had not granted either of them immunity, although they would be ‘left in peace'.

He said they got a ‘lucrative' retirement package, adding: ‘The new administration will do everything possible to make sure the family lives in peace, undisturbed.'

Among the crimes that Mr Mugabe and his government were accused of – and denied – were human rights abuses such as killing and raping opposition activists.

In March 2018, police began to investigate claims Grace fronted a poaching and smuggling syndicate which illegally exported elephant tusks, gold and diamonds.

She has not been charged over the allegations, but Mr Mnangagwa sanctioned the probe after Australian photographer Adrian Steirn uncovered ‘very strong' evidence.

Mr Steirn spent four months investigating wildlife trafficking and posed as a customer for contraband ivory to infiltrate the illegal poaching networks.

He filmed sources claiming Grace smuggled ivory poached in national parks out of Zimbabwe by exploiting her airport security screening exemption as First Lady.

Then in December last year, South African prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for her for allegedly assaulting a model in Johannesburg in 2017.

Mugabe's decline in his last years as president before he resigned in November 2017 after a 37-year rule was partly linked to the political ambitions of Grace.

She was a brash and divisive figure whose ruling party faction eventually lost out in a power struggle with supporters of Mr Mnangagwa, who was close to the military.

Grace was Mugabe's second wife and they married in 1996, having two sons and a daughter. He married his first wife Sally Mugabe in 1961 but she died in 1992.

Mugabe's sons Robert Jr and Chatunga gained a reputation for their playboy lifestyle, and were evicted from a flat in South Africa in 2017 after it was damaged in a party.

That same year, Chatunga was pictured on social media appearing to pour a £200 bottle of champagne over a watch which he claimed was worth £45,000.

Robert Jr had dreams of a basketball career but US sanctions meant he could not play in America, and he launched a clothing label in December 2017 called xGx.

Mugabe met Grace in the early 1990s when she was one of his shy young typists, but she became an ambitious politician who also wanted to become president.

Speaking in 2013, she said: ‘He just started talking to me, asking me about my life. I didn't know it was leading somewhere. I was quite a shy person, very shy.'

Before Mr Mnangagwa took over as president, Grace had been calling for his removal as they fought to take over from Mr Mugabe, who had ruled since 1980.

Mr Mnangagwa was Grace's sworn enemy – and his aides even accused her of trying to poison him with ice cream from her dairy farm in 2017, which she denied.

In 2014, when it appeared former vice president Joice Mujuru was in line to succeed Mugabe, he fired her following public rallies at which Grace derided Ms Majuru.

When Ms Majuru was removed, Grace became head of the Zanu-PF Women's League, giving her a seat at the party's top table.

She used her political platform to take on Mr Mnangagwa and famously said at a rally: ‘They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?'.

Grace had become deeply unpopular among much of the Zimbabwean public due to her alleged corruption and volatile temper by the time Mugabe was ousted.

But at first she stayed out of politics and was known for her spending, including buying rare diamond jewellery and Rolls-Royce limousines for her playboy sons.

Grace owns vast tracks of land in Mazowe, some 20 miles north east of Harare, and is also believed to own houses in South Africa, Dubai and Singapore.

But last December, it was claimed Grace – whose property portfolio is worth more than £50million – had not paid her farm workers for three months.

This came after about 400 illegal gold miners invaded one of her farms in March 2018, and allegedly uprooted lemon trees, digging shafts and put gold ore on lorries.

The reports of her lavish spending and explosive temper earned her the title ‘Dis-Grace' – and eyebrows were raised in 2014 when she gained a PhD in three months.

Her spending was an uncomfortable contrast with an economic crisis which left most of the 16 million population mired in poverty and unemployment.

And she has faced allegations of violence in the past decade. In Singapore in 2009, a photographer said Grace flew into a rage when he tried to take her picture.

Richard Jones said she ordered her bodyguards to hold his arms back while she punched him repeatedly in the face. Grace denied the assault.

In August 2017, Grace was accused of beating the ‘hell out of' a young South African model who was partying with her sons in Johannesburg.

According to Gabriella Engels, Grace burst into a hotel room where she was talking with friends and whipped her with an electric cable as bodyguards looked on.

Grace said she acted in self-defence after Engels tried to stab her with a knife. In December 2018, South African prosecutors issued the arrest warrant.

Source - Mail Online

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