The house that Bob built?

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iol nws april 22 mugabe nt robs 2 REUTERS BIGWIG: Robert Mhlanga

It might not belong to Robert Mugabe, but the controversial multimillion-rand property on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast could very well belong to one of his allies – a diamond-dealing Zimbabwean who shares the same first name.

It is believed the property may belong to Robert Mhlanga, a former Air Vice-Marshal and apparently once Mugabe’s personal pilot. Mhlanga was a prosecution witness in the 2003 treason trial of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Rumours that it was Mugabe’s house resurfaced last week.

A nearby property owner, who asked not to be named, confirmed that the owner was Zimbabwean. He said the man was “pleasant” but “very private”.

He knew that “Dr Mhlanga” made his money through dealing in commodities. He had lived there for about eight months. This tallied with information provided by others in Ballito.

It appears Mhlanga has the money to fund the massive development, estimated to be worth R200 million to R300m. He is chairman of Mbada Diamonds, a Zimbabwe-based company that was awarded mining rights at Chiadzwa by Mugabe’s government. It has been reported that first lady Grace Mugabe had a substantial interest in Mbada and had met Mhlanga several times.

Mhlanga has interests in an SA firm, Liparm Construction, whose website indicates it is involved in commodities including diamonds.

It has been previously reported that a study released by British watchdog NGO Global Witness raised concerns about diamond mining in Zimbabwe. It named Mbada Diamonds as one of the companies it was concerned about.

The grounds of the house are bordered to the south by the luxury Zimbali Estate and to the north by the old Pottery Gallery and Hilltop Estate. The property starts just 100m from the M4, but security is tight. A large fence circles the entire piece of land, and the entrance is guarded around the clock. A thick barrier of trees makes it impossible to see inside.

Aerial pictures show a main house that fronts on to a swimming pool and a man-made lake, with views of a second man-made lake and the sea. There is construction on the first lake, but it’s unclear what it might be. Towards the sea, at the second lake, another big building is going up, smaller than the main house.

Sister newspaper the Sunday Tribune contacted former owner Martin Sherwood, the main contractor on the developments, sub-contractors and property agents in the area. All would not speak or didn’t know who the owner was.

Sherwood said: “I can’t disclose who the owners are. One of the conditions of sale was that I sign a confidentiality agreement.”

He said he could not confirm or deny the rumours about ownership of the land.

Stefannuti Stocks, the main contractor on the project, would not comment. Director Graham Carver said: “I am not at liberty to divulge any information at all. I don’t want to discuss the project.”

He said a confidentiality agreement had been signed and that the company won the work on a private tender. At first he said he would provide the name of the developer, but later said he was not allowed to do so.

A realtor said: “Nobody knows who it is. There is a huge amount of speculation.”

It was also rumoured that Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had made the property one of their homes. - Sunday Argus


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