FROM a nearby picturesque hilltop, one has an obscure view of the white-walled mansion, a massive structure in the leafy suburb of Gletwin, near Chishawasha Hills in Harare.
It is a spectacular property. It looks like one of those Beverly Hills Hollywood mansions. Sitting across five hectares, with greenhouses, pine trees, 200 Israeli-imported olive trees, a small dam inside the vast swathe of its sprawling grounds, farmhouse and a relatively big dam just on the edges of its long perimeter wall, it is certainly one of biggest and most spellbinding mansions in Zimbabwe.
It makes State House and Zimbabwe House on the edges of Harare central business district look like some rustic countryside retirement home in a backwater village.
From outside, the house is a vast sight, not allowing a gaze into the heart of the mansion. Yet inside this high-walled fortress is a palatial house surrounded by lofty exotic olive trees—the sort of residences designed for the rich, famous and powerful.
A long driveway from the two-gated estate leads to the eye-catching house where the former police chief, Augustine Chihuri, used to live. Chihuri was a powerful figure in the late authoritarian ruler Robert Mugabe’s regime which lasted 37 years and was almost a law unto himself.
He fined the public on the roads at will, mainly for flimsy or imaginary wrongdoing, to extortion money and even resisted court orders for police not to collect spot fines, their most efficient activity which would have left even the official tax collector, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, green with envy.
However, Chihuri left the country as a fugitive after the army seized power from Mugabe in 2017, manifesting the wise African saying that ubukhosi amazolo/ ushe madzoro (power does not last forever). The breath-taking landscape of Chihuri’s house, coupled with an expansive garden, a fountain and tennis court which doubles as a basketball, reeks of opulence like the mythical Eldorado.
Surrounding the massive structure are pine and olive trees imported from Israel—that in itself a sign of extravagance.
From drone footage taken by The NewsHawks as part of the investigations today, the expansive yard looks ill-maintained as some of the pine and olive trees are wilting, while the grass looks brownish.
Perhaps this is because the owner is holed up in Johannesburg, South Africa, as he fights to keep the property, while the state claims he constructed it from proceeds of crime. Drone shots show the massive house could be anywhere in Beverly Hills, United States, and could easily qualify for a slot on South Africa’s Top Billing reality television show.
Near the high-walled mansion is an Olympic-size looking swimming pool. The palatial home is one of many jaw-dropping properties in the leafy suburb, but its scenic landscape is a show of opulence that the former police chief must have savoured.
From outside, the news crew could only imagine the quality of the furniture, the creature comforts and splendid amenities in there.
At the main gate leading to the property, a security guard refused to open for The NewsHawks team, saying the owners of the place were not around.
Chihuri, who left Zimbabwe following the 2017 coup, was touted as one of the richest top officials, with his vast wealth estimated at multimillions.
In papers filed at the High Court, where he is fighting the seizure of his properties, Chihuri claimed he was being persecuted because he refused to betray Mugabe.
“The number one reason for my persecution is my refusal to participate in the November 2017 coup that toppled the late President Robert Gabriel Mugabe,” Chihuri told court.
Chihuri also said he was betrayed by his “uneducated” former deputy, Godwin Matanga, now the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Commissioner-General.
He also revealed he had a long-standing dispute with President Emmerson Mnangagwa over a woman.
“I wish to put it on record to this court that the social relationship between His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and I has been broken down since the liberation struggle and it has degenerated to personal hate.
“… my wife got pregnant by me (1977). The current president of Zimbabwe, Mr. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, was aware of this union and pregnancy. Using his position, he got my then wife transferred to Shai Shai in Mozambique where he had a forced affair with her as she alleged,” he said.
For all its spectacular beauty, the house is now becoming a political battlefront between Mnangagwa and Chihuri.
Whether or not Chihuri manages to keep the dreamland Eldorado mansion remains to be seen.