Even as Zimbabwe’s economy continues to plummet, new evidence shows that President Robert Mugabe has been paying $500,000 annually in rent for a lavish villa in Dubai.
The damning revelation is part of new evidence produced in court late last week in the ongoing case between Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, and a Lebanese tycoon over a failed $1.35 million diamond ring deal.
The First Lady triggered a storm late last year when she took Jamal Ahmed, a Lebanese tycoon, to court demanding a refund of $1.35 million, the amount she paid for the diamond ring, for late delivery.
In her court affidavit, the First Lady denied Ahmed’s claim that she wanted the funds for the ring to be transferred to a foreign bank account because she does not have one.
However, Ahmed refuted Grace’s claim, implying that with a Dubai villa, she is sure to have a foreign account.
“Whether or not the second respondent (Grace) has accounts outside Zimbabwe does not mean she did not ask for a refund in Dubai.
“The second respondent’s family rents a 10-bedroom villa at the Emirates Hills in Dubai and address of the villa is J11. I am able to say that this is an exclusive and upmarket area, where annual rentals are around $500,000,” Ahmed insisted.
Other reports indicate that President Mugabe, who is currently on vacation in Asia, is expected to spend $36 million during his month-long annual sabbatical.
Emptying Public Coffers
This revelation comes at a time when Zimbabwe’s economy is at an all-time low, with the government being forced to introduce bond notes in an attempt to address the ongoing financial crisis.
Most commercial banks in the country have collapsed due to prolonged cash shortages and the ongoing mass withdrawals being made by depositors who want to salvage the little money they have left.
The country is also facing severe drought, which has forced thousands of Zimbabweans to flee to neighboring countries.
Last week, Zimbabwean ambassadors around the world were issued with eviction notices, after their government failed to pay rent for their embassies.
The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, saying that it does not have the necessary finances to continue supporting its missions abroad.
Revelations of Mugabe’s plunder also come at a time when the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health is struggling to raise the $250,000 needed to contain the spread of a typhoid outbreak in some parts of the country.
A segment of Zimbabweans have called on the 92-year-old president to retire. However, Mugabe has announced his plan to run for another term in the coming general elections.
Zimbabwean opposition leaders — led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai — have criticized Mugabe, saying he does not have Zimbabwe’s best interests at heart.