Harare - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace last week brought back several tonnes of timber and household goods from Malaysia for their mansion under construction in Harare's exclusive Borrowdale suburb, ZimOnline has learnt.
Staff at Harare International airport said Mugabe, who was in Malaysia on official business, arrived back in the country at about 4 o'clock in the morning of August 3 aboard an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767. The 767, which Mugabe kept in Malaysia for more than a week, is one of Air Zimbabwe's two remaining usable planes.
The national flag carrier, which had 15 working aeroplanes at independence 24 years ago, owns a third jet presently not in operation because it needs extensive repairs.
Airport staff who helped offload the jet said it was heavily laden with several tonnes of dark redwood timber, kitchenware, household electronic equipment, computers and television sets.
A senior official, who did not want to be named, said, "The timber was offloaded and left lying at the airport hangar for some hours before a 7-tonne Mercedes Benz open truck and a 30-tonne lorry arrived to ferry the timber to his (Mugabe's) house in Borrowdale."
Before the trucks arrived at about 7.30 am, agents of the government's Central Intelligence Organisation kept a watchful guard, preventing airport workers from getting too close to the goods.
"Several other personal goods like kitchenware and clothing were put in the presidential vehicles. The First Lady (Grace Mugabe) monitored everything while the airport crew loaded the goods," another airport official said. As far as the officials could see, the Mugabes did not pay duty for the goods whose value airport officials estimated could be several million United States dollars.
Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba could not be reached for comment. His phone was not being answered when ZimOnline tried to call him from Johannesburg.
Mugabe has been building his retirement home for the last four years. The property includes two man-made lakes and a small nature reserve. Most of the material being used to construct the opulent building was imported from Malaysia and other countries.
The Malaysian Parliament last month queried why the country's former prime minister Mahatir Mohammed donated timber to Mugabe. The Mugabes now do most of their shopping in Malaysia and South Africa.
The European Union and the United States of America have banned the Zimbabwean President, his wife and other top officials from visiting their territories because of gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
Parent site: "The World At Your Fingertips"