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Mugabe and his cronies living large at the expense of the masses
September 19, 2004

A visit to Phillip Chiyangwa's luxurious villa or Robert Mugabe's mansion on the outskirts of Borrowdale (Harare) might suggest that life in Zimbabwe is very pleasant, and so it is for the few super rich of the ruling party. For ordinary Zimbabwean however it is an altogether different reality, as a visit to one of the high-density areas around Harare will confirm. The high-density suburb of Mbare, to the south of the central business district of Harare, is a case in point.

Life in Mbare especially at Nenyere, Matapi, Matererini Flats and Mbare hostels is unbearable because of the dilapidated state of the housing units. The residential flats are no longer suitable for human habitation,
and more so the Mashonaland Turf Club units. These flats, which were originally built for bachelors during the colonial era, are now grossly over-crowded, stretching the sewerage facilities to the extreme. It is rare to find a unit with complete windows. Most residents have replaced the broken windows with iron sheets, plywood, plastics or cardboard boxes.

To date it is estimated that about 40 000 families stay in these flats, where public toilets are still in use. Human waste and bath water can be seen flowing outside the blocks at any time. The drainage system is non-existent and the public toilets are always dirty, due to over-use and shortage of cleaning chemicals at the City Council.

At Mbare hostels families are forced to share open halls, which have been sub-divided into tiny rooms. Wire and plastic are used to partition these halls, and as a result prostitution is now rife in the area.

During the early '90s the then city fathers promised that they would refurbish the old flats, which had already exceeded their normal life span. At one time the government came up with some interesting proposals which would have seen new houses being built for those displaced and a new bus terminus replacing the small and dilapidated one at Mbare-Musika. However these plans have proved to be as illusory as any of this government's election promises.

A frail, elderly man who lives in one of the Matapi Flats told our reporter that ZANU PF gave him false hope when it said it was going to refurbish the flats. He relied upon that undertaking and waited. Today the dream has faded completely. Having no means of his own, he has given up all hope of ever owning a nice home.

At the other end of the spectrum, and far removed from the misery of the inhabitants of the Matapi Flats, are the likes of Robert Mugabe and Phillip Chiyangwa. These super rich have accumulated their wealth at the expense of the suffering masses. This is evident by the type of houses they build - which are supposed to match their status. For the past five years, Mugabe and young Grace have been building one of the biggest and most luxurious houses in Zimbabwe, mostly with imported materials. The house is so big it could easily accommodate a quarter of the homeless from Mbare. It is estimated that one half of the cost of the Mugabe mansion would be sufficient to refurbish all the dilapidated flats in Mbare.

Recently during a Sky News interview, Mugabe admitted that he was building a house using imported Malaysian timber which he received as a gift from the former Malaysian president. This was a strange admission to make since it is an indication of corruption at the highest level. In any democratic system there is a convention that the head of state does not accept any gifts which might compromise his impartiality or integrity, but that obviously does not apply in Zimbabwe under ZANU PF rule.

Two months ago Mugabe bought all his service chiefs in the army the latest Prados for their personal use. The cost of these luxury items alone could have saved many lives in Mbare.

Mugabe and his underlings claim they don't have enough foreign currency to buy the materials required to build new housing units in Mbare, Yet Grace Mugabe manages to find sufficient forex to maintain her record as the nation's number one shopper - and surely Zimbabwe's most extravagant woman. Over the past two years it is estimated that she has spent nearly 2.1 million pounds sterling during her frequent shopping sprees in South Africa, Paris, London and Malaysia - that is the equivalent of Z$ 21,000,000,000 at the official auction rate..

In March 2004, Mugabe ordered the arrest of one of his own, Chris Kuruneri, for externalization billions of Zimbabwe dollars in forex. Kuruneri was Deputy Minister of Finance when these transanctions took place, and ironically it was the over zealous Dr Gideon Gono, at that time the boss of Jewel Bank, who not only approved the transactions but assisted Kuruneri in his endeavours.

Kuruneri was overseeing the building of a personal mansion in one of Cape Town's most exclusive suburbs when he was arrested. It was to have been the sort of home that most South Africans can only dream of ever owning. Such is the wealth which the elite of the ruling party have seized for themselves at the expense of the nation. For the conspicuous wealth of the likes of Chris Kuruneri, Phillip Chiyangwa and Robert Mugabe, only comes at a huge cost. That cost is the suffering of the millions of Zimbabweans who now eke out a pathetic existence, below the poverty datum line, in a land that has been raped and pillaged by its rulers. Never has the old saying been demonstrated to such tragic effect: "one man's greed is another man's need".

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