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A crony of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, building a luxury mansion with an underground bunker in Ballito, KZN, has been ordered to stop work on the R200 million property.
Rumoured to be a bolthole for Mugabe, court papers have revealed the R200 million compound, is being built by Robert Mhlanga, identified in some reports as the leader’s former pilot and right-hand man. He is reported to have a major stake in Zimbabwe’s conflicted diamond industry.
KwaDukuza Municipality has obtained a high court order to stop construction and occupation of the mansion, next to the plush Zimbali estate, because of the potential impact on neighbouring properties and the environment.
The interim order was granted on May 16 in the Durban High Court. The respondents were expected to have filed papers by yesterday, but by the close of business the papers had not been filed.
The Saturday Star this week established that Mhlanga, via his company Formate (Pty) Ltd, is the mystery man behind the development.
The heavily guarded development comprises two man-made lakes, a renovated existing mansion, complete with bullet proof windows and an underground bunker.
According to some internet reports, Mhlanga is Mugabe’s former personal helicopter pilot and is mentioned in two Global Witness 2010 and 2012 reports on blood diamonds in Zimbabwe.
In 2008 the Zimbabwean army took control of the Marange diamond fields using troops and helicopter gun ships killing and wounding many small scale miners.
Mhlanga was a prosecution witness in the 2003 treason trial of Morgan Tsvangarai and is reported to have been chief of staff operations at the National Command Centre, which controlled the announcement of voting results in the disputed 2002 presidential election, according to Global Witness.
Investigators have raised the alarm over diamond mining concessions being allocated in questionable circumstances to opaque companies at Marange. One passed on a 25 percent share to Transfrontier – a company described as a “sister company” of Mhlanga’s SA-registered Liparm Corporation on the latter’s website.
It was only after the municipality’s urgent application in the Durban High Court for an interdict to stop all building works on the two adjacent properties that the identity of the buyer emerged.
The first two respondents are the sellers of the properties, Straightprops 92 and Michelle Linda Mauvis, followed by Tozamile M Hogana and Stefanutti Construction. Mauvis named Formate (Pty) Ltd as the buyer, who will take her place in responding to the application.
In its application the municipality said it had “very serious concerns about the nature of the building works” because plans had not been submitted for the project believed to have started in September 2011.
Municipal building control officer Njabulo Ngwane said when the municipality became aware of the development in April he had gone to inspect the site.
“The properties were fenced and guarded but we were denied access.”
Ngwane said a staff member of architect Ewald Plekker had later visited him to present building plans, however, Ngwane advised that plans should be submitted over the counter and the fee paid as per the building regulations.
Judge Achmat Jappie handed down the interim order by consent that respondents are not to occupy recent structures built on the properties including “the guard house, the two gazebos, the ablution facilities adjacent to the existing main house on the first respondents’ property”. The respondents also undertook to allow building inspectors inspect the properties without prior notice.
Jappie ordered the respondents to submit building plans on or before May 23.
In court papers Mauvis said she had sold her property to Formate (Pty) Ltd and the company would be the second respondent when transfer took place.
Mauvis’ husband, local restaurateur Robert Mauvis, confirmed yesterday that the property had been sold. Asked to confirm whether the property had been paid for he said he was “not aware of anything as yet”. Deeds Office searches filed with the court papers show that Straightprops and Mauvis are the registered owners.
Straightprops 92 attorney Lazelle Paola declined to comment except to say that Martin Sherwood was no longer a director of Straightprops, despite official company registration records reflecting this.
Hogana declined to comment because the matter was in court. Mhlanga’s personal assistant at Liparm Corporation said yesterday Mhlanga was out of the country, but that she would contact him.
International Relations and Co-operative Governance spokesman Nelson Kgwete declined to comment.
Stefannuti Construction director Graham Carver could not be reached. - Saturday Star