Bitter family feud and Zanu PF infighting blamed for Grace-Gonogate

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 alleged family feud is the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono who is alleged to be fighting in the corner of Grace Mugabe and the President. On the other side there is 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 alleges that Leo is only carrying over from where his mother left. Two years ago Leo Mugabe made a public statement calling for the removal of Gideon Gono from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

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 on 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 National Breweries where he infiltrated the core of the company management as a tea boy in a spy sting operation that eventually forced the Senior Managers of the company to flee the country and leading to the 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 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 hospital bed.

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. 

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 only to be thwarted by Grace Mugabe’s people.

Meanwhile, another report says serious infighting within ZANU PF is said to be at the centre of leaks claiming Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace has been having a secret affair with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono.

The country erupted into frenzied speculation when the South African Sunday Times newspaper ran a story over the weekend claiming Gono had been bedding Mugabe’s wife over a 5 year period. The two allegedly met as often as three times a month at Grace’s Gushungo Dairy Estate, at expensive hotels in South Africa and on foreign trips to Asia.

Gono is considered Mugabe’s blue-eyed boy and this is what made the story even more sensational. But as more and more details of the story are dissected by journalists and ordinary people alike, the general consensus is that many parts of the story do not add up convincingly.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa, New Zimbabwe.com editor Mduduzi Mathuthu said certain events in the Sunday Times story did not tally with the time frames given. ‘Like for instance they said the allegations about Mrs. Mugabe and the Reserve Bank Governor were mentioned to the President on the 26th July (by his ailing sister Sabina), between the hours of 7 and 8pm, I believe.’

‘But on the day the President was actually attending an African Union summit in Uganda. And we also know that the said security guard or bodyguard (Cain Chademana), who is supposed to have overheard this conversation, was no longer in the President’s service after being discharged on condition of poor health around May or June. Those were two of the most significant flaws in the story.’

In the Sunday Times story it was alleged that Chademana was poisoned because he admitted to Mugabe that he knew about the affair. The allegation was that Mugabe had him poisoned to keep the story quiet. Those who know Chademana however say; ‘He had an illness known to all and it was neither poisonous nor mysterious.’ The story also said he was a ‘decorated veteran of the liberation war’ yet he was only 36 when he died, making him too young to have fought in the war.

So how did this story find the legs to walk into a newsroom and get published? We asked Mathuthu and he said there is some suggestion that the governor and Mrs. Mugabe are very close, and this may have fuelled speculation around their relationship. He said because ZANU PF was ‘a party that is built on patronage, it’s very easy for such a party to crumble over issues of money’ suggesting Gono had made enemies in the party as its chief ‘money man.’

Several factions within ZANU PF after fighting each other in attempts to eventually take over the leadership from Mugabe should he step down.

Depending on which faction Gono has aligned himself with, it is very possible a rival faction is trying to have him ousted by creating mistrust between him and Mugabe. Others are suggesting he knows too much in terms of senior party officials who looted money from the central bank and would like to have him replaced.

Meanwhile the country’s notorious Central Intelligence Organization sent four senior officers to meet separately with editors from the privately owned newspapers. Reports say they warned the newspapers not to cover the story of the alleged affair, going as far as threatening ‘someone might die’ if they repeated the allegations made by the Sunday Times paper.

There was speculation on Wednesday that Gideon Gono’s office would be issuing a statement denying the alleged affair with Grace Mugabe. It’s also reported he met Mugabe on Monday for lunch to discuss the damaging allegations. – Additional reporting by SW Radio