Zimbabwe vice-president's wife arrested for fraud, money laundering
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) on Saturday took Mary Chiwenga, the estranged wife of vice-president Constantino Chiwenga, into custody on fraud charges.
The arrest came just hours after the retired army general warned that the corruption drive would not spare high-profile individuals.
Addressing about 7,000 delegates at the Zanu-PF conference in Goromonzi, Mashonaland East, Chiwenga said, “We will arrest corrupt people. We don’t care who you are even if you know me personally we don’t care.”
A few hours later, Mary was taken into custody on allegations of taking about about US$1m (about R14.5m) out of the country.
Most of the money allegedly ended up in SA, where she bought two Ranger Rover Autobiography SUVs, a house in Waterkloof Golf Estate, Pretoria, and furniture for the house.
Part of the money allegedly ended in offshore accounts, with indications that at one time US$114,000 (R1.65m) was taken to China by her runners without declaration.
According to the ZACC charge sheet, Mary faces six counts of fraud, five of which involve the movement of money from the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) to First National Bank (FNB) of SA where two people - identified as Memory Chakuinga and Gamuchirai Goredema - hold accounts. The money would later be splashed on cars and real estate.
The period under investigation is between October last year and May this year when the general, who led the November 2017 coup that ultimately removed Robert Mugabe from power, was in and out of hospitals in SA and India. He ended up spending four months at a military hospital in Beijing, China where he made a recovery.
Another charge Mary faces was linked to a complaint by Chiwenga that she falsified information to get a marriage certificate.
“During the year 2019 on the date to the prosecutor unknown, the accused misrepresented to Judge President George Mutandwa Chiweshe that herself and the complainant [Chiwenga] had consented to wed under the Marriage Act, Chapter 5:11 under the marriage licence on the 2nd of July 2019 at their place of residence at number 614 Nick Price Drive, Borrowdale Brooke, Harare. The accused then submitted copies of national identity documents of both parties to the Judge President George Mutandwa Chiweshe without the knowledge and consent of the complainant,” reads the charge sheet.
Coincidentally, Mary is battling a similar case at the courts where her ex-husband, former footballer Shingi Kawondera, is suing her for US$700,000 for allegedly forging his signature in 2011 to get a divorce decree, which she used a few weeks later to traditionally marry the vice-president.
Mary’s arrest, according to analysts, has opened a lid on how the political elite have access to foreign currency at a time when there’s an acute shortage on the market for importing critical things such as electricity, drugs for hospitals, and raw materials for industry..
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