Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
FORMER President Mr Robert Mugabe and his family have admitted to externalising funds after buying two properties in South Africa and Hong Kong during his reign.
The admission, which was made by the former First Lady Grace in an interview the Mugabes had with selected journalists at their blue roof mansion in Harare last week, has exposed the hypocrisy of Mr Mugabe who in 2004 arrested former finance minister, Chris Kuruneri, accusing him of externalising money to buy a mansion in Cape Town.
According to a story in South Africa’s Sunday Times, the Mugabes declared to authorities that they had bought two properties in South Africa and Hong Kong.
“In South Africa I bought a dilapidated house, I wanted to bring it down, demolish some parts and to renovate the house,” Mrs Mugabe said.
The former First Lady also admitted to renting a house in Dubai for Robert Mugabe Junior when he was studying there and reportedly paid $500 000 per annum in rentals.
According to media reports, the Hong Kong property was bought for HK$40 million in 2009 just before the former President’s daughter Bona Chikore was about to begin studies at the University of Hong Kong.
The value of the South African property could not be ascertained although the former First Family has in the past been reported to own a R44 million property in Johannesburg.
The declaration of the assets by the Mugabe family follows President Mnangagwa’s three month moratorium on those that had externalised funds to return them.
Former Finance Minister, Dr Chris Kuruneri, was arrested in April 2004 on seven counts of breaching the country’s exchange control laws.
He was accused of transferring U$500 000, £37 000, €30 000 and R1.2m to South Africa to buy and renovate an eight-bedroom mansion.
The High Court cleared him after spending more than a year in remand prison.
He also spent time under house arrest.
Dr Kuruneri was arrested at the height of the Government’s anti-graft crusade in 2004, becoming the most senior official to face charges of corruption.
The ex-minister had always denied charges of funnelling foreign currency to South Africa to buy a mansion in an upscale Cape Town suburb and a luxury car.
President Mnangagwa’s moratorium on looters expired last Friday and a list of those that had not heeded his calls was published on Monday.
Out of the $1,3 billion that is estimated to have been externalised only $300 million has been returned.
Government noted 1 166 cases of externalisation.
Apart from those that have returned the money, others are still negotiating on modalities to get it back as it is tied up in properties and other investments.
Approximately $680 million is tied up in those circumstances.
President Mnangagwa has said individuals and entities that have not heeded his call for the money to be returned will face prosecution as required by law.
His administration has declared war on corruption in a bid to turn around the economy.
Under Mr Mugabe’s administration, the country witnessed rampant and unabated corruption which suffocated the economy.
Mr Mugabe would publicly threaten to deal with corruption but never took action even though it is believed he knew the culprits.
Unlike Mr Mugabe, President Mnangagwa has vowed to arrest anyone engaging in corruption and a number of former ministers have appeared in court charged with graft.