Panicky Mzembi puts $2m mansion on market

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Former Cabinet Minister Walter Mzembi has put his palatial Harare mansion on the market for a princely $2 million amid speculation the 55-year-old politician is finalising moves to flee the country to avoid possible imprisonment on corruption charges.

One of the four real estate companies engaged to sell the house, Kennan Properties, last week confirmed that the imposing residence in the high-income suburb of Vainona is valued at US$800 000, which translates to around $2 million at the official RTGS exchange rate prevailing last Friday.

Renowned estate agents Pam Golding Properties, Bard Real Estate and Sky Ryan Properties have also listed the house for sale.

Described by property dealers as the quintessence of luxury, the double-storey house features six air-conditioned bedrooms (all en suite), two lounges, a bar, separate cigar and whisky lounge, gymnasium, sauna, office, five lock-up garages and a swimming pool on the façade.

Interior of Walter Mzembi’s Harare mansion which has been put up for sale

The master bedroom is a mini-house as it has its own television lounge and a walk-in closet.

“A majestic and breathtaking Mediterranean double-storey home. This perfect home is nothing but pure luxury with columns, staircases, special ceiling treatments and built-ins,” said Kennan Properties on its website.

So grand is the mansion that a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news crew member could not help but marvel at it during a televised poolside interview with Mzembi in the aftermath of former President Robert Mugabe’s resignation in 2017.

Mzembi is facing prosecution for corruption and criminal abuse of office during his tenure as Minister of Tourism and Hospitality industry.

He is alleged to have stolen or illegally disposed of Government property worth $1,6 million, some of which was donated to Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries church leader Walter Magaya.

Mzembi failed appear in court on January 28 to answer to the charges, with his lawyer Mr Job Sikhala telling the court that his client could not stand trial as he was receiving treatment for colon cancer in South Africa.

On February 3, Mzembi was widely rumoured to have died but his associates immediately dispelled the report by circulating a video on social media showing an apparently healthy Mzembi working from an office.

The location of the office was, however, not disclosed.

On the same day, Mzembi gave an interview to South African online publication eTurbonews rubbishing claims that he had died.

“I am talking to you from heaven but this wasn’t funny. My daughter in Europe was woken by this news and called me in panic,” said Mzembi.

State prosecutor Mr Brian Vito sought Mzembi’s arrest contending that the suave but litigation-weary politician was feigning illness.

Sources said efforts by Mzembi to sell some of immovable assets could be part of a scheme to skip bail as he fears incarceration.

“He might want to claim political persecution but he has a clear case of corruption which might lead to his imprisonment. This may be the reason why he is selling his assets and spending most of his time in Johannesburg where he has set up base,” said one source.

The source said Mzembi was working flat out to acquire South African citizenship for which he might qualify through his maternal grandmother who is of Sotho origin.

His adult children with his first wife are living in Europe and he is known to go by the name John Maleti in some Johannesburg circles.

Mzembi could not be reached on his local mobile phone number to comment on the issue, and Mr Sikhala yesterday professed ignorance on his whereabouts.

“I last spoke to him a couple of weeks ago and I am not sure where he is. I will check for you but he should be at his house here in Harare,” said Mr Sikhala.

He said as the legal counsel he was also not aware that his client was disposing of some assets.

“I am hearing this for the first time. Let me do some investigations,” said Mr Sikhala.

Mzembi served for eight years as Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry before he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in October 2017, a position he held for less than a month before Mr Mugabe stepped down.

He was credited for successfully organising the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) assembly, which Zimbabwe co-hosted with Zambia in 2013, but it later emerged that he might have abused some of the resources meant for the event.

This resulted in his arrest in January last year.