HARARE - African presidents, billionaires, rich local businessmen, diplomats and socialites yesterday attended the opulent wedding of President Robert Mugabe’s first daughter Bona.
In the process, the estimated 4 000 guests were given a rare opportunity to view the First Family’s lavish private home in Borrowdale, which has for long remained a secret.
Mugabe’s massive property, which is reportedly worth more than $10 million was, according to presidential spokesperson George Charamba, built through donations from Zanu PF and unknown well-wishers.
Realising that hosting the expensive wedding at the mansion — popularly known as Blue Roof — was going to expose Mugabe’s mansion which would ultimately lead to questions on how the 90-year-old could have built such a house in a poor country like Zimbabwe, Charamba was quoted in the State media pre-empting the lavish nature of the house.
“The venue of the wedding is a peculiar one. It is not a public place.
“It is actually within the grounds of the home of the First Family and this is a home which is distinct from the official residence of the President.
“You might recall that the land on which that home stands was bought by the party, Zanu PF, for their leader. Not a single cent came from the State.”
“Secondly, the structures which have become the private home of the First Family were painstakingly put up through a combination of private savings and donations from well-wishers.
“That makes the place not just a house for now, but a home for all times for the Mugabes, in and out of office.
“That immediately raises security concerns not just in the present, but for all times. So access to the venue of the wedding can neither be random nor unlimited,” said Charamba in comments that raised eyebrows.
Organisers of the event kept a tight lead on pictures, amid concerns that guests would take pictures of the monstrous house and publish them.
Inside the controversial residence of the First Family, it was off bound for the private media, with cameras, cellphones and smart phones switched off for guests.
To keep a lid on the nuptials, Mugabe’s neighbours were formally advised not to take photographs of the invited guests who trooped to the highly-securitised residence of the Zanu PF leader’s home, in Benzes, BMWs, Bentleys and off-terrain monsters.
Shuttle buses that ferried the guests from Heritage Primary School to the Mugabe residence — were emblazoned with the faces of 24-year-old Bona and Simba Chikore, whose age remains a mystery.
Mugabe’s imposing villa was built amid controversy at a time when Zimbabwe was going through an economic meltdown — and until yesterday very few people have had the privilege of viewing the house.
Reports at the time the house was built said that marble was imported from Italy. The finest European crystal, sunken baths with jacuzzi fittings and oriental rugs are all part of the décor. The soaring ceilings were reportedly decorated by Arab craftsmen.
At the time in an interview with Sky News, Mugabe denied that the mansion had been built with Zimbabwean taxpayers’ money.
He said a Serbian company had donated material and labour at cost, supplemented by gifts of fine timber from former Malaysian Prime Minister Makathir Mohammad and roof tiles from China.
“You say it is lavish because it is attractive,” Mugabe told Sky News.
“It has Chinese roofing material which makes it very beautiful, but it was donated to us — the Chinese are our good friends, you see.”
Out of 18 heads of state invited, three made it, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema, and Zambian leader Michael Sata.
Zuma, arrived at Blue Roof hard on the heels of Mugabe who had “arrived” at his home in his armour-plated Mercedes Benz; with bodyguards in dark suits jogging in front of the imposing vehicles that included a Royce Rolls used by Bona.
South Africa billionaire Patrick Matsoepe, whose estimated net worth is $2,7 billion, was also among the elite guests who converged at Mugabe’s plush Borrowdale home, to witness the marriage.
The relationship between Mugabe and Motsepe is not clear.
Africa’s longest serving ruler Nguema of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, who is reported to be one of the richest on the continent, keenly followed proceedings.