Mugabe mansion on school land

Mystery as ex-president’s daughter builds house on state property earmarked for education centre

Robert Mugabe’s eldest daughter hired Chinese builders to build an opulent home on state-owned land in Harare that was originally intended for a school just months before her father was ousted from office.

Bona Mugabe, 27, is building on a picturesque hillside and has created a scar visible for kilometres in the countryside near her parents’ estate.

The place is part of a vast Grace Mugabe property portfolio uncovered by a Telegraph investigation.

The case amplifies longstanding questions about the Mugabes’ use of state resources for their personal benefit and enrichment.

City politicians say land taxes due to the municipality in which the new mansion sits are overdue, depriving the area of much-needed revenue.

More than a week after Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor, was sworn into office, only one minister and two party members have been charged with any wrongdoing.

They include Ignatius Chombo, Mugabe’s last finance minister.

Records in Harare showed he took land belonging to the city for his own and the ruling party’s benefit, opposition Movement for Democratic Change Party councillor Rusty Markham said.

But some opposition leaders think the former finance minister is a scapegoat for the alleged corruption of other influential figures, including Grace Mugabe, who will not be investigated.

“The law should take its course,” University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said.

“We are hoping any legal process will not fall victim to political machinations by the new powers that be.”

Allegations include claims that the Mugabes used state funds to bankroll unprofitable farms during the land seizures of the 2000s, and that the family took foreign cash from the national Treasury to fund personal trips abroad.

Then there is the question over the number of lavish property acquisitions. The hillside mansion under construction on the Umwinsidale Road on the outskirts of Harare is one such case.

Neighbours said Bona Mugabe and her husband, Simba Chikore, 40, first showed up in June and construction on the ambitious project began in October.

Police officers on duty when The Sunday Telegraph visited said the “Chinese builders” had left at the start of the soft coup, and their equipment, including bulldozers, earth movers, and cranes had been withdrawn.

They confirmed they were guarding the property for Bona Mugabe and her husband.

The couple did not respond to requests for comment.

Markham said: “This was City of Harare land. Planning years ago was that a school would have been built on this site. It is a mystery how this couple landed up with [it].”

Next door is a property just bought by Grace Mugabe for about £1-million (R18.4-million) from Abe Smit, a hunter who moved to western Zimbabwe. Smit declined to discuss the sale of his property.

Grace bought another, much larger, property in a nearby street last year for about £3.5-million (R64.6-million). Months later she bought a mansion in Johannesburg for a similar price.

The Sunday Telegraph understands she was negotiating a fresh purchase in the area on the morning of November 14, hours before soldiers rolled into Harare and placed her and her husband under arrest. The property is adjacent to 344 hectares of urban land illegally seized from Andrew Newmarch, a white landowner, in 2000.

This burgeoning luxury is in stark contrast to the degradation many ordinary people have suffered.

A few kilometres from the Mugabes’ property empire is the suburb of Hatcliffe, which has more than doubled in size since a campaign of home demolitions by police and army in 2005 that the UN claimed left a million people homeless.

Chombo handed vast tracts to “land barons”, who then rented out plots to poor people. The result is a sprawling slum without services.

A senior Zanu-PF MP said he had not known about the Mugabes’ purchases.

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