The Cousin of Robert Mugabe is worth £180m
Robert Mugabe’s cousin worth £180 million claims wife in Zimbabwe divorce case
Wife of Phillip Chiyangwa, former Mugabe regime MP, describes life of “unreserved flamboyance” as she sues for divorce
By Peta Thornycroft, Johannesburg7:44PM GMT 04 Dec 2013
A cousin of Robert Mugabe accumulated assets worth an estimated £180 million, according to a divorce case in Zimbabwe that has thrown a rare spotlight on the vast wealth acquired by the regime’s inner circle.
Details of Phillip Chiyangwa’s assets were placed before the Harare high court by his wife, Elizabeth, who is seeking 85 per cent of her husband’s assets and maintenance of £53,000 a month for 10 years.
Though Zimbabweans are aware that some prominent members of the ruling Zanu PF party have grown very rich since independence in 1980, it is unusual for the details of these fortunes to be exposed. The economy teetered on the verge of collapse for several years before picking up recently, though the World Food Programme is still seeking funding to feed about two million people.
The list of Mr Chiyangwa’s assets included more than 50 properties, many of them large houses in the capital’s best suburbs, and more than a dozen industrial properties.
There are several farms in the list, though it is not clear whether these were taken from white farmers since the start of Zanu PF’s land grab in 2000, or whether Mr Chiyangwa, 63, bought them. Mrs Chiyangwa also claims her husband owns a Rolls-Royce Phantom and a Bentley, which she valued at $475,000 (£290,000) and $350,000 (£213,000) respectively, as well as a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles and a range of sports utility vehicles.
The home the couple shared, not far from Mr Mugabe’s private mansion in Harare, has 43 rooms.
The asset register lodged with the court listed more than 40 companies, including engineering, manufacturing and finance firms.
Mrs Chiyangwa’s statement in the court filings spells out the extraordinary wealth she enjoyed as a married woman.
“I was accustomed to a life of unreserved flamboyance and can state without hesitation that I have, for the past 25 years, enjoyed a very high standard of living, way beyond that of most, if not indeed the rest of Zimbabwean society, if not the entire African society.”
Before she split from her husband, Mrs Chiyangwa said in an interview that she had no explanation for the family’s wealth, except that it was “God’s gift”.
The couple have two daughters, one of whom lives in London, where Mrs Chiyangwa was said to have visited recently. Mr Chiyangwa said he had several other children before he married Elizabeth, who has cited infidelity as the grounds for divorce. In 2005, he reportedly admitted to having an affair with Makosi Musambasi, a 24-year-old Zimbabwean nurse who was a contestant on Channel 4’s Big Brother reality show.
Mr Chiyangwa insists he earned his wealth through hard work and accused his wife of exaggerating his fortune.
“Many of those properties listed by my wife are not mine. They belong to other businessmen. The valuations are from 2008, from the hyperinflationary era and my assets are held in trust,” Mr Chiyangwa told the Telegraph.
A former policeman in the white-run Rhodesia, he became a Zanu PF MP and rose to become party chairman in the key Mashonaland West region.
In 1996, he proposed the campaign to grab white-owned farms, threatening “Rwanda” if farmers did not leave. He became renowned as a tycoon and created Native Africa Investments as a parent company for wide-ranging interests.
A prominent businessman in Harare, who asked not to be identified, said the source of Mr Chiyangwa’s original wealth remained a mystery.
“It must be connected with Zanu PF as the party has been in control for more than 30 years and he has been a generous contributor to it,” he said.
Mr Chiyangwa said he and Mr Mugabe shared a grandfather, but he rarely saw the 89-year-old Zimbabwean leader these days.
In 2004, he was arrested and detained by Mr Mugabe’s central intelligence organisation after being accused of passing state secrets to South Africa, before finding favour with the regime again.