THE ongoing legal saga involving Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and his estranged wife, Marry Mubaiwa, has lifted the lid on the lifestyle of the country’s rich and powerful who live in the lap of luxury.
Court documents on both the messy divorce case between the estranged couple and that in which Mubaiwa is facing allegations of attempted murder, externalisation of foreign currency and fraud provide an insight into how the country’s second most powerful couple lived easy and in comfort while the majority of citizens wallow in poverty and unrelenting economic hardship.
A string of mansions
In addition to the Borrowdale mansion at the centre of the divorce case, Chiwenga said Mubaiwa purchased two properties in South Africa while he was hospitalised in that country.
“The respondent had been in the hospital for four months, while the applicant stayed in South Africa in a house she purchased in Waterkloof Estate. For all intents and purposes, she had moved to South Africa. The house had been furnished and she bought four (4) cars which are still in place. She also purchased another house opposite the one she was staying in,” he said.
When Mubaiwa first appeared in court, however, it emerged during cross-examination that the Vice-President was fighting for part of the properties in South Africa, which the State deemed proceeds of crime.
A fleet of vehicles
In her court papers, Mubaiwa is demanding access to six vehicles — Toyota Lexus, Mercedes-Benz S400, silver Mercedes-Benz E350, black Mercedes-Benz E350, Range Rover Autobiography and another Mercedes-Benz — which she claimed she had been using during the subsistence of their marriage.
Chiwenga, in his opposing affidavit, gave a breakdown of the ownership of the said vehicles which he said Mubaiwa had no claim to, except the Range Rover Autobiography.
“The cars she claims are not hers. Some are State cars, some are respondent’s. She only benefited in using them because of her position then which no longer exists. If any is registered in her name, it can be availed,” he said.
“Again and furthermore I note that the ancillary relief sought is for vehicles and clothes which vehicles do not belong to her but to the State. The certificate of urgency does not state how she acquired and came to own six (6) vehicles belonging to the State, some of which were my package from the army when I left to enter political office.”
According to the Vice-President, the Toyota Lexus belonged to the Command Agriculture Programme, the Mercedes-Benz S400 was purchased from the Defence Ministry, the silver Mercedes-Benz E350 was given by Sakunda Holdings boss Kuda Tagwirei as an escort for the children and the black Mercedes-Benz E350 also belonged to the Defence Ministry, but was given for Chiwenga’s personal use.
Chiwenga argues that it does not make sense for his former wife to demand the said cars as she has her own fleet of personal cars besides the Range Rover. He cites a BMW 7-Series, a red Chevrolet and a Toyota Hilux.
Abuse of State apparatus?
One key thing that has made the divorce saga a fascinating tale is the use of State apparatus in a domestic dispute.
Mubaiwa described Chiwenga’s conduct in that regard as “cowboy antics”.
“I did receive reports to the effect that the respondent, in an act of brazen abuse of the law, was using the army to secure premises and to make off with goods and effects belonging to the two of us. I genuinely thought that given his status, the respondent would not adopt cowboy antics in seeking to achieve whatever remedies he wants,” she said.
She further indicated that soldiers were also used to bar her from accessing her business premises at Orchid Gardens and accused her former husband of seeking to operate above the law by virtue of his political status.
“That the respondent is the Vice-President does not mean that he is immune from the law, or that he is entitled to act as he pleases,” she said.
Mubaiwa noted that since Chiwenga’s return from China where he had gone for treatment, she was not aware of where he had been residing, but only got see him in a brief meeting during which Lt-General Anselem Sanyatwe informed her that Chiwenga wanted to end the marriage “and threatened that he would use the full arsenal available to him to deal with me”.
The conflation between the personal and military was so extensive to the point that Chiwenga sent Sanyatwe “to give her a US$100 bill which she declined to accept” because “it is unlawful in Zimbabwe to transact in United States dollars” and proper customary protocol had not been observed.
It is, however, the demands that Mubaiwa is making in the event that the marriage is annulled that perhaps provide a most scintillating view of the life of luxury that she had become used to as the country’s self-styled “Second Lady”.
Mubaiwa is demanding an equivalent of US$2 500 for each child, payment of their entire school fees and all university costs should they proceed to tertiary level.
The other demands are for one international holiday per year at a five-star facility and the equivalence of US$25 000 spending money, one fully-expensed regional holiday and US$15 000 spending money, one fully-paid local holiday per annum and not less than 25 000 per person and an equivalent of US$40 000 a month for her own personal maintenance per month as well as internationally-recognised medical aid cover until her death.
Chiwenga accused his former wife of wanderlust, saying she spent a long time away from home.
“Applicant even before this period would spend long times away from home leaving the children to the devices of the maids and myself. She would travel for days to South Africa,” he said.
Voodoo and the occult
Although some of the country’s rich and powerful have been associated with the use of voodoo and dabbling in the occult, it appeared this did not spare the Vice-President’s household.
In his court papers, Chiwenga said when he took the children on holiday, he discovered that they could have been traumatised by the occultic practices they witnessed their mother dabbling in.
“I took them on holiday abroad and initially they had signs of trauma as they explained the black magic rituals they were subjected to by the applicant. The various tools of trade for the witch doctors which were unexpectedly left behind by applicant after her arrest told a horror story,” he said.
“My clothes in some instances were heaped together and sprayed by the applicant with some unknown substances. I had to take the children away to cleanse memories of the horrors they experienced.”
Chiwenga said as proved by a medical affidavit filed alongside the other court papers, a doctor had established that Mubaiwa required psychiatric care and hinted she could have been affected by her alleged abuse of illegal substances.
“The doctor concluded that she (Mubaiwa) should be under the care of a physician, a surgeon and psychiatrist. It is indicated she has flashbacks, suffers from lack of sleep and has difficulties in breathing, symptoms of illicit drug abuse,” he said.
He further noted that some of the claims made by Mubaiwa in her court papers could be indicative of the said mental instability.
“This is an insult to the person of the Acting President. I have done nothing to warrant such adverse comments. I off course do not get surprised since the applicant requires some mental adjustments or perhaps rehab,” she said.
In response, Mubaiwa said the drug addiction claims were false and only meant to prevent her from getting custody of her children.
“Defendant denies that she is a drug addict and pleads that the children were under her exclusive care for long periods of time without any adverse consequences on them and it is denied that the children’s best interests would be served by custody being awarded to a sickly absentee parent who is more in hospital than out,” she said.
Perhaps the clearest indication of how things had turned sour in the marriage is encapsulated in Chiwenga’s sentiments that marrying Mubaiwa “was the worst mistake I made”.
“This was due to the cunning behaviour she employed to secure a place in my life. She needed moulding but I later found out you could not teach old dogs new tricks,” he said.