SA diamond dealer picks up tab for Mugabe wedding

2014-02-21 00:00

A WEALTHY South African diamond dealer is one of the financiers of a week of celebrations in Harare next week for President Robert Mugabe’s 90th birthday and his daughter’s wedding.

The wedding of Bona Mugabe to a pilot is set to cost almost R50 million.

However, things have gone awry in the last two days and a new venue that can accommodate 6 000 guests is being hastily sought.

Between 30 and 40 flatbed trucks with equipment for the event have arrived in Harare from South Africa. Among the equipment is an enormous marquee that can accommodate the thousands of guests.

The cost of transport alone is between R3 million and R4 million.

The marquee is fitted out with chandeliers and fancy draping.

The wedding will still be held in Harare as planned, but the booked venue had to be scrapped as the marquee could not be erected there.

A prominent South African businessperson is involved in the arrangements. Everyone had to sign secrecy agreements in a bid to prevent details leaking out.

The trucks, including cranes that can lift up to 30 tons, arrived on time at the selected venue, but earthworks had not yet been completed.

It was deemed impossible to have the work completed by the wedding date of March 1, sister paper Beeld learnt.

Contractors hired to erect the marquee and other tents were yesterday involved in urgent negotiations to find another venue.

If time runs out, it appears all the trucks would have to return to Johannesburg.

The South African contracts for the wedding were paid in cash months ago.

South African event co-ordinators were also responsible for staging the luxury congress held by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party at Chimoyo outside Harare in December. This was also paid for in advance, in cash, Beeld learnt.

Meanwhile, Harare residents are incensed that the government has spent an estimated R10 million on tarring dilapidated roads there over the past few weeks, apparently in a bid to impress dozens of high-profile foreigners, including heads of state, who will be guests at the wedding.

Municipal workers who busy round the clock mending potholes and beautifying the streets. According to the online newspaper Zimeye, all other municipal maintenance is at a standstill.

At the same time, it is not clear whether Mugabe will be able to return from Singapore, where he has recently undergone cataract surgery, in time for his birthday.

The planning committee for that event also sought financiers.

Street traders in Harare have begun selling commemorative items.

The birthday celebrations will be held on Sunday at the Marondera Stadium.

Last year, special coins were minted for Mugabe’s birthday and his cake weighed 89 kg.

It is expected that organisers would have tried to outdo themselves this year for the important milestone.

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