Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Bank set to seize Makamba’s mansion in SA

By Ray Ndlovu | Sunday Times |

James Makamba’s sprawling Johannesburg property could soon be confiscated by Absa Bank to recover a $4,5 million (R59 million) debt owed by the Zimbabwe businessman.

James Makamba
James Makamba

The debt is understood to have accumulated in mortgage, credit card and vehicle financing accounts the businessman opened with Absa’s Wealth Unit.

Makamba, who is a top Zimbabwean businessman and close ally of former president Robert Mugabe, put up the Sandhurst property, Villa Royale, as surety.

The five bed-roomed mansion complete with wine cellar and private chef, costs R80 000 a night to rent and has accommodated the likes of US rapper Nicki Minaj.

On the website that rents it out, Makamba says: “I am Zimbabwean by birth, but live in the United Kingdom now. However, with my many business ventures, I often find myself back in Africa and for this reason Villa Royale was created.

“When you walk in the door, you will be greeted warmly by our dedicated arrivals staff and personal butler. The uncompromising luxury and comfort is (sic) evident from the minute you arrive — it’s a home that surpasses all in terms of design and décor.

“Villa Royale is full of delightful surprises…from the elevator to the beautiful entertainment area; private gym to in-house theatre, this is a destination that will not disappoint.”

It has disappointed Absa however. Correspondence seen by the Sunday Times this week shows Makamba has fallen short of his obligations to the bank.

The bank’s attempts to recover the money include discussions with senior management at Barclays Zimbabwe about how to facilitate the transfer of funds into a South African account.

Sources close to Makamba said the 66-year-old businessman had tried to make a payment of $1 million to a local account nominated by Absa in October last year, by making use of Treasury instruments he holds worth $20 million.

“Please let us know whether Absa would accept US dollar-denominated Treasury bill of one-year tenure in lieu of USD payment in respect of Makamba’s obligations,” one of the letter said, as Makamba looked for ways to repay the bank and avoid having his Sandhurst property repossessed.

Makamba refused to comment on the matter yesterday. “Why are you dealing on negatives instead of positives?” he asked the Sunday Times.

The looming repossession adds to a long list of troubles Makamba has faced since his return to Zimbabwe in December last year after 13 years in self-imposed exile.

The trouble includes boardroom squabbles for the control of Telecel Zimbabwe, the country’s third-largest mobile operator, an unsuccessful attempt to return to politics and attempts to block the revival of a 2005 case of externalisation of funds.

An extraordinary general meeting of Telecel Zimbabwe on Thursday finalised Makamba’s exit after decades as chairman.

New chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa said it was a relief to put “legacy issues” to bed.

“We will be meeting shortly with our co-shareholder Telecel International to map the way forward operationally, particularly in relation to recapitalisation of Telecel which requires at least $400 million over the next three to four years mainly for network expansion and upgrades,” he said.

“There is of course the need to put to rest the outstanding licence fees. The capacity to finance these costs is there. However, the manner and means in which this will be achieved will be made public in due course.”

Makamba will receive $11 million for his Telecel Zimbabwe shares. He sold off a remainder of 30,25 percent equity in holding company Kestrel Corporation to MHMK Group, controlled by Mlotshwa and George Manyere.

Sources said foreign currency shortages meant Makamba “would need exchange control approval” to transfer the money to South Africa in order to settle his Absa debt.

In the early 1990s, Makamba was Zanu PF chairman in Mashonaland Central and became the MP for Mount Darwin in 1995. But his bid to return to politics and represent Zanu PF in Mount Darwin failed in April.

He was barred from taking part in the party’s primary elections after he leaked a video intended to smear President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Since his return from exile, there have also been attempts to revive six charges of exchange control violation laid against him in 2005. He fled the country after a warrant of arrest was issued relating to transactions involving £3,7 million, $2,1 million and R15 million.

Makamba told the Sunday Times the warrant was cancelled on Friday after he appeared in court.

“My warrant of arrest was cancelled yesterday and you keep asking negative things.

“I am bringing investors and you don’t ask me about them, only negatives,” he said. — Sunday Times