Family feud: The fight for control of Robert Mugabe’s wealth escalate

HARARE – The bitter feuding in President Robert Mugabe’s clan has taken a dramatic twist and escalated as battle to control his wealth takes a public spat of skulduggery and media snipping amongst family members, The Zimbabwe Mail can reveal.

At the centre of the family feud is the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono who is fighting in the corner of Grace Mugabe and the President and on the other side has the rest of the Mugabe clan led by Leo Mugabe who is the son of President Mugabe’s late sister Sabina.

A source close to the family said Leo is only carrying over from where his mother left.

This week a report in a South African newspaper accused Gono of having an affair with the President’s wife Grace Mugabe, but we can reveal that the report is part of the family smear campaign fuelled by the rival family clan amid reports that Leo Mugabe has escaped assassination plots in a number of occassions. 

The report in the Sunday Times says, one of Mugabe’s most trusted bodyguards who were present at the time, Sabina Mugabe, 75, warned her brother before she died that he was being betrayed by two of the most important people in his personal and political life: his wife and his personal banker, a pivotal member of his regime.

The report says Sabina told the president that Grace and Gideon Gono were secret lovers.

The Reserve Bank Governor and the First Lady both come from the same area in Chivhu District in Mashonaland East province and Gono together with Grace Mugabe’s late brother Reward Marufu were some of the first members of Robert Mugabe’s spy agency, the dreaded CIO.

In the early 80s Gono was assigned by the CIO to spy on white executives at Natbrew Breweries where he infiltrated the company as a tea boy in a spy sting operation that eventually forced the Senior Managers of the Brewery to flee the country and leading to the eventual takeover of the company by the quasi-State owned Delta Corporation.

In the years gone by, Mr Gono has been at the centre of the President and his family’s complicated business network both at home and abroad and this has not gone down well with the rest of the Mugabe clan who feel more and more ostracised as his wife’s relatives take more influence in his wealth.  

At the same time when Mr Gono gained prominence and influence in the President’s wealth, Leo Mugabe who used to be the President’s favoured and trusted family member has hit hard times as all political avenues and business prospects have been closed for him by Grace Mugabe’s people who are surrounding the President leading to bitter family feuding and skulduggery and the latest media briefing in a South African newspaper. 

Mugabe has staffed most key positions in the government with Grace Mugabe’s relatives particularly in the Justice and Foreign Affairs Ministries.

Sources close to the family said the fall-out over President Mugabe’s wealth has escalated and got worse since the death of Sabina Mugabe amid reports that the President took two Harare houses owned by his late sister and gave them to his daughter Bona and his son Robert Mugabe Jr. much to the outcry by everyone in the Mugabe clan.The majority of the members of the Mugabe family are accusing the President and his wife Grace of "killing" Sabina Mugabe using witchcraft.

The pair is also stands accused of causing the ill health to the President’s younger sister Bridgette Mugabe who has been in intensive care in a Harare hospital for four months and she has requested that the President and his wife be kept away from her. 

Meanwhile, to his clan members, President Mugabe is adamant that his wealth belongs to his children and he has even declared that he doesn’t even know what Grace’s vast business empire is. 

In recent years, Mugabe has outflanked the rebel nephew Leo Mugabe and he has given a cabinet post to Leo’s rival brother Patrick Zhuwawo as Deputy Minister of Science and Technology in the coalition government.The two sons of Sabina Mugabe, Leo and Patrick have different fathers. Leo’s father is the late former ZIFA Secretary-General in the early 80s and owner of Mboma buses in the 70s and early 80s while a Mozambican man fathered Patrick Zhuwawo.  

The two brothers do not see eye to eye and true to his legendary divide and rule tactics, the President has taken advantage in order to ostracise Leo.

Sabina’s eldest son, Innocent, who was a director of the state’s Central Intelligence Organisation until his mysterious death a few years ago was said to be kingpin of this family feud and his death was also linked to it as he led a faction in the spy agency which rivalled Grace’s brother Reward Marufu.

Leo is owner and chief executive of a construction and telecommunications consortium, Integrated Engineering Group (IEG), which is almost defunct due to piling debts and loss of business revenue due to the fall out with his uncle.

In the past IEG got awarded contracts running into billions of dollars to construct government buildings, often ahead of far more experienced companies but the money was not put to good use. In the 90s, Leo’s company was controversially awarded the right to construct the Harare International Airport.

In recent times Leo has had troubles in his effort to lay claim to be the majority shareholder in Telecel Zimbabwe through Empowerment Corporation, where he has, on a number of occasions tried to replace Jane Mutasa on the board of the country’s third largest mobile phone company.

Empowerment Corporation (EC) holds 40 percent equity while Telecel International, the foreign partner, holds a controlling 60 percent stake.

Originally, EC was composed of six organisations vying for a stake in the mobile telecommunications firm.

Businessman James Makamba represented the EC interests on the Telecel board and under the influence of Grace Mugabe was later replaced by Mrs Mutasa after he slipped out of the country when police launched investigations on his alleged externalisation of foreign currency.

Telecel, however, suspended Mrs Mutasa as acting chairperson in March this year when the Harare businesswoman was arrested on allegations of defrauding the company of airtime worth US$ 750 000, however, the Attorney-General has declined to prosecute.

Grace Mugabe, believed to be backing Jane Mutasa to "fix" Leo and the First Lady’s close relative, the Attorney General’s Chief State Prosecutor Chris Mutangadura is alleged to be behind Attorney-General’s office refusal to prosecute Mrs Mutasa.

The long running dispute of Leo Mugabe’s shareholding at Telecel dates back to the 90s and sources said Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) Bank wrote to Empowerment Corporation that the Z$ 140 000 cheque drawn by Mr Mugabe in 1999 meant for Shares subscription was dishonoured and that was when he is alleged to have lost his stake in Telecel. It is believed Gideon Gono played a part in the bank’s actions to stripe Leo’s claim in Telecel.

The feud in the Mugabe clan has become so bitter that the President himself is no longer in contact with the rest of the members of the family and he has put Leo Mugabe on 24-hour surveillance.

Both rival family sides have spend huge amounts of money in recent years consulting African traditional healers and using all forms of skulduggery in order to outdo each other and the latest snipping tactic accusing Grace and Gono of having an affair will definitely not go down well with the ruthless President Robert Mugabe.