HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — The wealth of Zimbabwe’s former longtime president Robert Mugabe was long a mystery. Now the first official list of assets to be made public says he left behind $10 million and several houses when he died in September.
Some in Zimbabwe view that estate as far too modest for Mugabe, who ruled for 37 years and was accused by critics of accumulating vast riches and presiding over grand corruption.
The report by the state-run Herald newspaper on Tuesday does not mention any overseas assets, though it is thought that Mugabe had properties in neighboring South Africa and in Asia.
The report says there appears to be no will, though lawyers are still looking for one. The report cites the lawyers as saying the law stipulates that Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and children will inherit the property in that case.
Mugabe also left behind a farm, 10 cars and 11 hectares (27 acres) of land that included an orchard at his rural home where he was buried. His daughter, Bona, registered the estate on behalf of the family, the report said.
More than a dozen farms are publicly known to have been seized from both black and white farmers by the late strongman’s family.
Mugabe died of cancer in a Singapore hospital at age 95 nearly two years after he was forced by Zimbabwe’s military and ruling party to resign.
Many in the southern African nation say the country he left behind has fallen deeper into economic and political crisis, with a growing hunger problem that a United Nations expert last month called “shocking” for a state not at war.
Half of Zimbabwe’s population, or more than 7 million people, is experiencing severe hunger, the U.N. World Food Program said Tuesday, calling it a “vicious cycle of sky-rocketing malnutrition that’s hitting women and children hardest.” It plans to more than double the number of people it helps to 4 million but said delivering aid will be complicated by “surging prices” for basic items and a regional drought that has hurt food supplies.
Critics blame the overall crisis on the administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has struggled to fulfil promises of prosperity since taking power in 2017.
The properties declared by Mrs Mutsahuni-Chikore are:
l House Number 129 Forbes
l Villa Number 65, Gunhill
l Number 27 Quorn Avenue,
l Lot GB Helensvale and
Lot 1 of subdivision B of
Sub G of Helensvale
l Highfield Farm
l Zvimba rural farming plot
(about 5 acres)
l Zvimba rural home (one hectare)
l Zvimba orchard (about five
l 10 cars
Mrs Grace Mugabe was listed as the sole surviving spouse while Bona, Robert, Bellarmine and Russel Goreraza were listed as Mugabe’s surviving children.
The Mugabe family lawyer Mr Terrence Hussein of Hussein Ranchod & Company wrote to the Master of High Court Mr Eldard Mutasa asking him to register the death of Cde Mugabe.
Mr Hussein indicated that no will had been found and messages had already been sent to other law firms in town to establish if the late former President had not left a will.
“Kindly register the estate. Thus far, we have not been able to locate a will, but have sent out enquiries to other law firms, although the family members are not aware of any.
“In this regard, perhaps the estate may be treated as intestate for now,” reads the letter.
To that end, the Master’s Office has invited the Mugabe family members and their lawyers to an edict meeting on Thursday to discuss the appointment of an executor.
Legal experts said the initial inventory by the informant at the registration of the estate can be amended at any stage in the event that the informant would have either deliberately or mistakenly left out some assets relevant to the estate.
Mr Wellington Pasipanodya of Manase & Manase Legal Practitioners said deliberately leaving out some assets in the inventory was criminal.
“If the assets are left out intentionally, that is fraud and it is imperative upon any of the beneficiaries to bring that information to the attention of the Master.
“The fraudster will be liable for criminal prosecution. Further, in terms of Section 13 of the Administration of Estates Act, the culprit will forfeit all benefits arising from the omitted assets,” said Mr Pasipanodya.
Another expert, Mr Caleb Mucheche of Caleb Mucheche & Partners Law Chambers, explained the procedure that is followed when handling an estate that does not have a will.
“The Master of High Court convenes an edict meeting for the relatives of the deceased to appoint an executor.
“If they fail to agree on an executor of their own, the Master will choose a neutral professional executor from a list kept at his office,” he said.
Mr Mucheche said siblings of the deceased or any other members of the extended family have no legal right to claim a share of the estate in the absence of a will including them as beneficiaries.
“An estate of a person who dies without a will is distributed to beneficiaries made up of his or her children and surviving spouse, under a monogamous civil marriage or surviving spouses if he was in a polygamous marriage under customary law.
“Brothers or sisters are not legally entitled to inherit if a person dies without a valid written will,” said Mr Mucheche.
He added: “Brothers and sisters can only inherit under a third tier if a person dies without a wife or children (primary beneficiaries) and his or her father or mother (secondary beneficiaries) are also late.”a