Mnangagwa’s emissaries, in negotiations with the family, threatened to seize various properties from the former president’s widow and children in a dramatic showdown that ended in surrender by the family.
It has emerged that Mugabe, who died aged 95 on September 6, did not have title deeds for any of his three houses, including the famous ‘Blue Roof’ residence in Borrowdale.
In the cases of houses in Mt Pleasant and Waterfalls, those were bought by Zanu-PF for Mugabe while the party owns the land on which the Blue Roof – a sprawling 25-bedroom mansion – was constructed.
Disputes over Mugabe’s burial threatened to embarrass Mnangagwa, with the family insisting that it was Mugabe’s wish to be buried next to his mother in rural Kutama, 85km northwest of Harare. This would deny Mnangagwa, his former deputy who conspired to topple him in a 2017 coup, the opportunity to “pontificate over his dead body”.
But the family’s position shifted dramatically last week with confirmation that after all, Mugabe would be buried at the Heroes Acre.
The Standard reported that Mnangagwa’s emissaries “used a carrot-and-stick approach, including warning Mugabe’s family that they risked losing the Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale if they tried to antagonise the government.”
Mnangagwa’s emissaries included justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, former reserve bank governor Gideon Gono and former ZIFA president Phillip Chiyangwa.
“They told the family that they needed to be careful when handling the burial issue and work with the government because the family might stand to lose Mugabe’s properties that are still registered in Zanu-PF’s name,” a family source told the Standard.
Mugabe gave away the Mt Pleasant property – bought for him by Zanu-PF in 1984 – as a wedding gift to his daughter, Bona, in 2014.
Zanu-PF owns the land on which the Blue Roof was built, but the mobilisation of funds and construction was overseen by Mugabe’s widow, Grace, a relative told ZimLive.
The mansion which sits on 44 acres was built by a former Yugoslavian company, Energoproject, and completed in 2003.
Gono denied knowledge of the threats to the family.
Zanu-PF’s secretary for administration Obert Mpofu said: “The process is currently underway to transfer the properties to the Mugabe family.”
The Standard reports that Mugabe’s eldest child, Bona, recently asked Zanu-PF to transfer the Mt Pleasant property to her name.
Mugabe, who came to power preaching socialism in 1980, largely lived by those principles but those around him including his wife, Grace, were rapacious wealth accumulators, his supporters say.
The situation now facing his family points to how Mugabe ran Zanu-PF almost as a private enterprise, said journalist Dumisani Muleya.
“One of the first things Mugabe did when he was ousted by the military was to hand over a Zanu-PF account with $24 million in which he was the sole signatory,” said Muleya, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that he owns these properties because they were bought for him by resolutions of Zanu-PF organs. But the fact that he never bothered to ask for the transfer of ownership points to a man who clearly saw himself as Zanu-PF, and Zanu-PF was him in his eyes.”
A state funeral service attended by nearly two dozen current and former heads of state was held in Harare last Saturday, but Mugabe is not expected to be buried until at least next month after the family – having lost in its push to bury him away from the shrine – insisted on a mausoleum being constructed as a compromise. The construction will take at least 30 days, Mnangagwa told journalists last Friday.