Ballito is abuzz with word that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is building a mansion next door to the up-market housing estate, Zimbali.
And tight security around the identity of the owner is serving only to amplify the talk on the North Coast and among the jet-set in Durban.
The estimated R200 to R300 million development dubbed “House of Thozi” is said to comprise a main house, two man-made dams, which can be seen in an aerial photograph taken by this week, an under-ground bunker with a security house upstairs, bullet-proof windows and a private helipad. There are also apparently plans for a hotel to be built on the roughly 72 000 square-metre site comprising two properties bought for the development.
DA local councillor Colin Marsh said he had been inundated with calls from journalists wanting to find out who was behind the development at the old Pottery Gallery site off the M4 highway, which has been under construction for the past year. He said he was aware of the talk that Mugabe was building the mansion but he had also been told that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were coming to the North Coast to make a movie and that they had bought a property in Zimbali.
“Everyone is looking for the story and they can’t find the truth,” Marsh said.
He said he had done a deeds search on the properties, which he said were in the names of Straightprops 92 of which Martin Sherwood is a director, and Robert Mauvis, who are believed to be the sellers.
The Saturday Star was unable to confirm this or to get comment from the sellers yesterday. Marsh said the properties had sold for R100 million and R70 million.
A local businessman, who asked to remain anonymous, said the property was surrounded by a double security fence and the development value was estimated at around R200 million. He said local contractors had been sworn to secrecy regarding the identity of the owner. Completion is expected in about two months.
“They just say it’s a black doctor from Zimbabwe, but everyone says that it is him (Mugabe) because he’s got that kind of money,” he said.
Another local property businessman said that the sellers had signed confidentiality agreements “but talk is that the buyer was Mugabe’s minister of security who is developing a complex for Mugabe and his ministers”.
When the Saturday Star’s sister paper, The Independent on Saturday, tried to visit the development this week a well-dressed plain clothed security guard politely refused entry and when asked if Mugabe was the owner said “people are lying”. He said the owner of the house was “Thozi”.
Another DA councillor said he had also heard the talk and was outraged at the thought of Mugabe living in Ballito.
“He has stolen all the money from that country and he wants to come here now. Why should we keep him? He should rather retire in his own country or go to his partners in China. He must go to the Far East, to Hong Kong. He won’t get a visa to any other country,” he said.
However, Ballito and KZN Cancer Support Network co-ordinator Jaime Ernst said she had heard it was “definitely Mugabe” who was building at the old Pottery Gallery.
“Imagine if he does move here? He is an old man and I have absolute compassion for the elderly no matter what you have done because when you are old you reassess what you have done if you have still got all your senses. If the rumour is true that he has got cancer then it’s very likely that I might get called in to help him. He is aged and ill and it is never nice to be sick,” Ernst said.
The staff of four major estate agents in Ballito said they were all aware of the development and that they had also heard that Mugabe was behind the development. An estate agent said that one of the properties had been listed for R35 million in 2010 but it had been sold by another agent.
“It was a one-hectare stand and the house size was 1 700 sqm with four bedrooms and four en-suite bathrooms as well as additional flatlets and four garages,” she said.
However, when the agent who had apparently sold the property was approached for comment he denied any involvement in the deal.
“We have not done any business with Robert Mugabe. All our information is confidential. We have not sold a R35 million property. I heard it was Robert Mugabe and then it was Julius Malema. Neither I nor any of my agents has sold a R35 million property,” he said.
“Eventually, the truth will come out if Mugabe arrives here,” he said.
International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said he was not aware of Mugabe buying in Ballito. But the department did not have to approve foreign buyers’ property deals. - Saturday Star