NESTLED on a mountain in the exclusive Umwinsidale suburb on the outskirts of Harare’s northeastern periphery, the mansion is immersed in scenic surroundings and there seems to be a seamless connection between its interior design and the outside environs.
BRIDGET MANANAVIRE/OWEN GAGARE
The woodland prevents the onlooker from taking in a direct view of the house, which stands on the steep slopes of the mountain as if the lush environment has embraced the mansion.
The architectural theme suggests that the property was specially designed with a spirit of adventure and the wow factor in a locality overlooking the suburb on the edge of the equally picturesque Carrick Creagh neighbourhood in Borrowdale.
The house also overlooks Glen Lorne and other nearby suburbs across the rugged terrain, as well as the farms dotted around the rolling outer reaches of the city.
Down the foot of the mountain, sizeable structures are seen, notably a big wedding arena, Venue Umwinzii, which stands out.
Apart from Carrick Creagh Road, the wedding venue and the massive house are also accessible through Umwinsidale Road and Luna Road, which meet along the way from opposite directions.
Besides the backdrop of leafy indigenous trees, through which the Umwinsi River flows majestically, the spacious wedding venue — which constitutes the lower boundaries of the house — adds to the aesthetic splendour with its vast lush-green gardens.
This is the mansion which the late former president Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore, a pilot, and his wife Bona, an accountant, are building.
An investigation by The NewsHawks into the property development shows that the construction of the 25-room house is estimated to cost at least US$20 million. It was originally expected to cost US$39 million.
The imposing mansion sits on a 22-hectare tract of land that cascades down the mountain right to its foot in the Umwinsi River valley.
To put it into perspective, the house is built on land that is bigger than the Harare Gardens which sit on 21 hectares.
The house’s plinth – a builtup area measured at the floor level of the storey or at the basement – is about 7 800 square metres.
The multi-storey house has a basement which is 1 200 square metres; ground floor (3 000 square metres); first floor (3 000 square metres); and a sundeck which is 600 square
In the basement are nine rooms, including an apartment, while the ground floor has eight rooms and the first floor has another eight rooms.
The sundeck or upper terrace for sunning and relaxing offers a stunning view of the mountains and surrounding areas.
Checks with architects and quantity surveyors in Harare showed that given the steep slopes of the mountain where the house is built, the cost of construction is about US$2 500 per square metre.
This means that with a built-up area of 7 800 square metres, the house — which is half complete — will cost US$19.5 million, or roughly US$20 million.
That is before factoring in expensive finishings, key features like a big swimming and magnificent landscaping of the sprawling grounds.
When all these additional features are factored in, the house will cost well over US$20 million, according to conservative estimates.
The initial planned cost was US$39 million, before Mugabe’s death gave Simba and Bona a financial reality check.
“At the moment the total cost of the house is expected to be at least US$20 million. This is because the owners of the property are now struggling to finish the house, which at the beginning was supposed to cost US$39 million,” said a source at the Mugabes’ Blue Roof family home in Borrowdale, Harare.
“The late former president was financing the project. Remember he gave Bona and Simba his historic Mount Pleasant house during their wedding, but after that they asked him to build a house of their choice and dreams. Mugabe said he would fund the project; he paid for everything before he died. Simba and Bona are now struggling to complete it. It’s a huge project; they need millions of US dollars to finish it.”
The source said if Mugabe was still alive the cost would escalate to around US$39 million, considering the price of the vast tracts of land, construction expenses, design charges, finishings and landscaping, which he would have been prepared to finance.
“The price would have been much higher if they still had money because in an elevated mountain area like that it might have cost up to US$5 000 per square metre to build, but that has now been contained at US$2 500 per square metre,” another source said.
“So when you add land, construction, design and landscaping costs, at a minimum square metre charge of US$2 500 it becomes US$20 million, but if you take a maximalist approach it will be US$39 million. This includes the cost of paying the whole project team; the architect (team leader), structural engineer, civil engineer, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer. These days there is also the environmental engineer. While professional architects usually charge 7% of the project cost, the engineers charge 3.5%. These are the professional rates but, of course, people always negotiate.
“Besides all that, there will also be a road which will stretch for a kilometre inside the property given its magnitude and that will cost up to US$1.5 million on its own. Building a kilometre of a proper tarred road costs between US$1 million and US$1.2 million.”
When Simba wed Bona in 2014, Mugabe gave them his old historic house at 40 Quorn Avenue in Mount Pleasant. That is where Mugabe first stayed when he became prime minister in 1980 after leaving his Highfield home.
From there, Mugabe stayed at Zimbabwe House and then went to the Blue Roof, which was registered in the name of a company linked to Zanu PF that donated the stand to him. Mugabe was also given– he did not buy – the Mount Pleasant house.
While it is not clear how much Mugabe was worth at the time of his death in September 2019, his account at CBZ Bank had US$10 million which was part of his estate.
Mugabe’s family, children and relatives did not make much money during his rule, hence most of them are struggling at the moment.
Mugabe, however, allowed his family members to grab farms and his cronies to loot and accumulate wealth.
His wife Grace is more monied than the rest of the struggling family. As reported by The NewsHawks last October, Mugabe’s family, according to documents, accumulated 24 farms, not 14 as widely and repeatedly reported.