Former president Robert Mugabe, who allegedly seized 21 commercial farms during his reign, faces the spectre of losing 20 of those farms as the new administration moves to recover property reportedly looted by the despot.
The 94-year-old ex-president and his wife, Grace, are said to own 21 farms spanning at least 16 000 hectares.
The revelations undermine the central claim behind Mugabe’s often-violent land reforms that they gave the majority of black Zimbabweans their rightful inheritance and righted colonial wrongs.
Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who hounded her husband’s then deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa during the dying last days of Mugabe’s rule, is also set to lose properties.
She has been expanding her real estate portfolio in recent months, splashing millions of dollars on houses, expensive cars and jewellery, including a much talked about $1 million wedding anniversary ring, which is now at the centre of a bitter court dispute.
Mnangagwa, who made a dramatic comeback, weeks after he had been booted out of Zanu PF to claim the presidency, is moving to recover money allegedly stolen during Mugabe’s 1980-2017 presidency of the mineral-rich southern African nation and stashed in banks around the world.
The new administration wants all this cash returned to Zimbabwe by March 19.
Mugabe is being accused of embezzling, misappropriating and extorting money from the Zimbabwean State to build his sprawling business empire, pointedly the family’s dairy business, Alpha & Omega, whose funding has always been a subject of conjecture.
Alpha & Omega Dairy is into raw milk production and had diversified into ice cream and yoghurt manufacturing.
Mugabe’s myriad farms were also breeding heifers.
Acting Information minister and ruling party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said on Monday Mugabe will be treated just like anyone if he is found to own more than one farm as reported by the State media which claimed that he owns 21 farms, some through proxies.
Asked what government would do to Mugabe’s vast properties, Khaya Moyo said the law will be applied without favour.
“All I know is that the president has indicated a war on corruption and that no one is above the law,” Khaya Moyo told the Daily News.
“All of us have been directed to declare our assets and the deadline was February 29. After the submissions, I think we will get to a day where we are told who owns what.
“And if the law says one man, one farm and I have five — four will be gone and then a situation will arise of naming and shaming and people will know who is who.
“The same will be on the issue of externalisation. Three months were given to those who took money out and to be frank, not much has been returned and we will know by the 19th, we shall see who hasn’t returned the money,” Khaya Moyo added.
Posting on his Facebook page yesterday, Mnangagwa said on March 19, he will not only name and shame people who have not returned externalised assets and funds, but he will instruct the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to go after them.
“I would like, however, to make it very clear that we have identified over a thousand cases which require attention and we have so far processed a number of these cases which has resulted in us receiving $250 million back into the country.
“So many cases are being processed on a daily basis case by case. I have given the Reserve Bank an extra 14 days in order to process most of the cases that are positive.
“However, to those who have not yet responded or ignored my call to return assets and funds of Zimbabwe, I say to them on the 19th of March I will expose them by publishing their names as well as instructing the NPA to follow them up.
“I would like to warn those who have ignored my call that they are going to face the full wrath of the laws of our country,” Mnangagwa warned.
Information coming to the fore suggests Mugabe was the biggest beneficiary of land reforms.
Even though he has consistently maintained that his land reform programme was meant to benefit the poor black masses, it would appear that it is him and his cronies who have got the most out of it.
Besides him, the current ruling regime, including top Zanu PF members and supporters, security service chiefs and officers and traditional chiefs and senior government officials and judges also benefited handsomely from the land invasions — which reduced 4 000 white farmers to 400 by murders, beatings and forced evictions — and is held responsible by many for the demise of the “breadbasket of Africa”.
The Daily News understands members of the current presidium, ministers and deputy ministers in Zanu PF are also multiple farm owners.
Curiously, skeletons in Mugabe’s cupboard — real or imagined — are coming out of the closet just after the former guerrilla leader threw his full weight behind the New Patriotic Front (NPF), led in the interim by retired brigadier general Ambrose Mutinhiri.
Mugabe, who turned 94 last month, rattled Zanu PF when he backed Mutinhiri, whose NPP is closely linked to the vanquished Generation 40 faction.
Academic and researcher Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe, by revealing to the world that he is not safe and sound, has put the Mnangagwa administration in a dilemma.
“They don’t know what to do. They wanted to sound cool and claim that he retired voluntarily …. but now he is back contradicting them and thus putting them in a dilemma and if they go for him, it will confirm that the coup was a reality and the whole world will turn against them,” Mandaza told the Daily News.
Mugabe recently revealed to the chairperson of the African Union Moussa Faki that contrary to Mnangagwa’s claims that he was receiving perks and other benefits that he is constitutionally entitled to, he is actually getting next to nothing and his security has been withdrawn while his wife Grace is also being harassed.
However, Khaya-Moyo said Mugabe should have engaged Mnangagwa as the two are still very much in talking terms.
“If the former president is aggrieved by any situation which has arose since that time, the sitting president is here, they know each other very well.
“I think the two know each other for a long time. He can convey his message to the president. I have personally heard that the two talk each other. A seasoned politician like the former president would not fail to convey his message,” Khaya-Moyo said.
United Kingdom-based academic Alex Magaisa said Mugabe, the ever shrewd politician but now insecure, plunged into opposition politics to forestall any attempts by Zanu PF to strip him of his wealth as he would be seen as a victim of the Mnangagwa regime.
“Mugabe feels threatened and this is why he has decided to throw the kitchen sink at his successor by backing an opposition party. The move into opposition politics is therefore an act of self-preservation.
“The toad has jumped in broad daylight because something is after its life. Whatever the government does to the Mugabes now, it will be presented as political harassment merely because Mugabe has taken a political side.
“By associating himself with an opposition political party, Mugabe is setting himself up as a victim of political persecution,” said Magaisa.