LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND INFAMOUS
A Now Daily Investigation
The collapse of the Zanu PF ‘leadership code’, which bound the party’s top brass to lead a frugal life in line with their previous socialist ideology, has seen cabinet ministers amassing improbable wealth and emerging as some of the richest Zimbabweans.
While the ministers go to extreme lengths to hide their mostly ill-gotten wealth, their damaging presence in the marketplace and Zanu PF factionalism have led whistle blowers to pinpoint their assets.
Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa has become a focus of attention since he was elevated to be president Robert Mugabe’s deputy in 2014. The vice president has reportedly gone on a shopping spree, buying up businesses and properties in Zimbabwe’s second city Bulawayo, where he faces immense hatred due to his perceived role as ‘the butcher of Matabeleland’ during the Gukurahundi army murders of civilian Ndebeles, which he superintended in the 1980s as state security minister.
“Mnangagwa owns warehouses of gold and diamonds and store-rooms of cash,” said an intelligence source.
Surprisingly, a discredited list of the 50 richest Zimbabweans published by X Research and Intelligence recently totally excludes Mnangagwa and only names ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira in the top 50, implying that the minister has more money than the vice president.
In this investigation, Now Daily provides some insight into the lifestyles of Zimbabwe’s richest cabinet ministers and politicians and unravels how they got their wealth, in this instalment focussing on Mnangagwa.
For someone who grew up herding goats in the arid Mapanzure area of the south Midlands province near the mining town of Zvishavane, Emmerson Mnangagwa has come up in the world.
Mnangagwa had his first stroke of luck in the late 1950s, while a student at Mapanzure school, when he came into contact with a youthful teacher called Robert Mugabe. Mugabe had been expelled from Dadaya mission school after infamously threatening to “box” the then headmaster there, Garfield Todd, who later became prime minister of Southern Rhodesia. As punishment, the authorities sent Mugabe to the remote village school where he was the only teacher.
By his own admission, the superstitious Mugabe hated staying at the school, which was “full of owls”, which some believe are a witchcraft omen. Mnangagwa’s father, Mafidhi, a witchdoctor, invited Mugabe to stay in his home to escape the ‘witches’, and so began a friendship that has seen him rise to become the second most powerful man in Zimbabwe and, by some calculations, the richest.
When Mugabe became a politician and helped form Zanu in 1963, he remembered his protégé. He ensured that Mnangagwa was sent for military training in Russia. On his return, Mnangagwa took part in several military campaigns but was arrested while trying to blow up a train in his home town. Sentenced to death, he was reprieved because of his young age. Upon his release from a Rhodesian jail, Mnangagwa fled to Lusaka, where he enrolled for legal studies at the University of Zambia.
When Mugabe was released from a 10 year stint in jail, he crossed to Mozambique to join his guerrilla army, Zanla. Not trusting seasoned bush fighters to take care of him, Mugabe made Mnangagwa his personal aide. Photographs from that time show Mnangagwa walking alongside his master, burdened with heavy bags.
Mnangagwa was to be Mugabe’s bag man for three years. At independence in 1980, Mugabe appointed the youthful Mnangagwa state security minister. He soon proved his mettle as the ‘butcher of Matabeleland’, presiding over the brutal murder of thousands of Ndebeles who were considered rebellious and disloyal to Mugabe because of their allegiance to the Zapu leader and the prime minister’s arch-enemy Joshua Nkomo.
Satisfied with Mnangagwa’s brutal handling of the Zapu insurgency in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, Mugabe appointed him party secretary for finance.
Mnangagwa made most of his money and established much of his expansive business empire while he was the Zanu PF secretary for finance, a post that he held from the 1980s until 2004 when he was sacked by president Robert Mugabe amid allegations that he had stolen party funds. An investigation was conducted, led by Mnangagwa’s rival General Solomon Mujuru. The findings of the probe were never published until Mujuru was burnt to death in 2011 in a fire blamed on Mnangagwa’s agents.
Despite being sacked from the finance portfolio, Mnangagwa had already set up an extensive and largely secretive business empire. (To be continued)