The estranged wife of Robert Mugabe’s nephew is demanding £51,000 per month in maintenance and a share of his 109 properties in a messy divorce case that has highlighted the fabulous wealth of the Zimbabwe president’s relatives.
Elizabeth Chiyangwa claimed that Phillip Chiyangwa – a successful property tycoon and a former Zanu-PF MP – earned more than £611,000 per year from several private schools he has set up and “other millions” from more than 40 companies he owns.
Ms Chiyangwa filed for divorce in the high court last Monday on the grounds of infidelity. The couple has been married since 1988 and have two adult daughters. Mr Chiyangwa, 53, insists he will not agree to the divorce.
The flamboyant businessman has never made a secret of his vast wealth. The founder of the Affirmative Action Group (AAG), which is leading Mr Mugabe’s controversial push to grab white and foreign-owned companies, Mr Chiyangwa is proud of his extensive “Native Investments” portfolio.
He has allowed his 35-room mansion – which comes complete with helipad – in Harare’s exclusive Borrowdale Brooke suburb to be featured in the local press. Last year he announced that he was buying a Bugatti Veyron to add to his extensive fleet of luxury vehicles.
But the list of his 109 properties included in court papers and published in the state-owned press last week has shocked even ardent Zanu-PF supporters – and got Mr Chiyangwa worried.
Conservative estimates put the value of the properties at more than £164m.
The couple’s opulent lifestyle is far removed from that of millions of Zimbabweans. Fears are high that the country is sliding back into economic crisis, with bank queues resurfacing last week as civil servants tried to access their end-of-year payments. The main trade union announced this month that 300 jobs were being lost per week – in a country where the formal employment rate is well below 20 per cent.
Ms Chiyangwa told the BBC in 2010 that the couple’s wealth was “a gift from God”. Now she wants an independent auditor appointed to determine the full extent of her husband’s property.
In court papers she said: “I was accustomed to a life of unreserved flamboyance and can state without hesitation that I have, for the past 25 years, enjoyed a very high standard of living, way beyond that of most, if not indeed the rest of Zimbabwean society, if not the entire African society.”
She is demanding a £611,000 one-off payment, £51,000 per month maintenance for the ten years following the divorce and an immediate cash payment equivalent to an 85 per cent share of his properties. She also wants £220,000 to replace her vehicles and £122,000 to buy new clothes and furniture.
Through his lawyers, Mr Chiyangwa has indicated that he is “concerned” about the publicity the divorce is generating.
His relationship with his 89-year-old uncle has been tested before.
Mr Chiyangwa was publicly dressed down by Mr Mugabe earlier this year after he failed to regain a parliamentary seat in Chinhoyi in the July elections – despite dishing out cellphone recharge cards and laying on a free concert for voters.