January 26, 2008
Jonathan Calvert, The Sunday Times
THE controversial British property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten has been
arrested by police in Zimbabwe following allegations that he violated the
country’s strict currency laws.
Officers say they found large amounts of cash and pornographic material —
believed to be pictures of Hoogstraten, 63, and a 22-year-old woman — during
a raid on his home in the capital, Harare.
The move against Hoogstraten — one of the few white land owners to be spared
during Zimbabwe’s land reform purge — suggests strains in his close
relationship with Robert Mugabe, the country’s president.
A land owner and investor in Zimbabwe, Hoogstraten has bankrolled Mugabe’s
Zanu-PF party and once claimed he had given the president a $10m loan,
although he later denied this.
The police investigation is believed to relate to the 200 residential and
business properties that he owns in Zimbabwe.
Police officers went to his mansion in the upmarket Emerald Hill suburb of
Harare on Thursday evening and questioned him about allegations that he was
charging rents to tenants in a foreign currency.
Zimbabwean law prohibits the use of foreign cash to buy local goods and
services in an attempt to protect its own currency which has been severely
weakened by hyper-inflation.
Later Hoogstraten was paraded on state television wearing a white
short-sleeved shirt and holding large amounts of cash. It was reported that
$35,000 (£17,600) had been found at his home, as well as small amounts of
British pounds and South African rand.
He also had 20 billion Zimbabwe dollars — worth just £2,000 on the black
market. There has been a shortage of currency in the country since October
last year which the central bank chief has blamed on “cash barons” who hoard
Zimbabwe dollars to exchange them for foreign currency.
The property tycoon — who once described his British tenants as
“riff-raff” — is no stranger to the inside of a police cell and has a number
of convictions in this country. Two years ago a high court judge ruled that
he was responsible for the murder of a business rival.
Wayne Bvudzijena, an assistant police commissioner, said yesterday:
“Hoogstraten’s arrest . . . follows reports received by the police to the
effect that he was charging his tenants in foreign currency.”
Bvudzijena said that Hoogstraten had demanded six months’ rent in advance
and in a foreign currency.
He said: “The police informant had been asked to pay in the region of
US$8,000 . . . [Hoogstraten] is being charged under the Exchange Control
Regulations for charging a service and dealing in foreign currency.” The
offences carry the penalty of a fine and forfeiture of cash.
The commissioner said the tycoon is also facing possible charges under the
censorship act relating to pornographic material found in his home. The
woman in the picture is said to be Zimbabwean.
Hoogstraten’s private life is complicated. He has five children by three
wives but once claimed that he was “never married to any of them”.
When asked why he spent so much time in Zimbabwe, he said: “Because I love
this country . . . The other reason is that, according to my fellow white
guys, I am in bed with black people and that is true even literally. The
mothers of my children, my three wives, are all black.”
A news agency report today said Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown had left some
of Hoogstraten’s tenants in arrears on their rent. They had been told their
furniture would be seized and they would face eviction.
In 2002 a British court convicted Hoogstraten of manslaughter and sentenced
him to 10 years in jail for ordering two hitmen to assassinate a business
rival. He appealed against the conviction and it was overturned the
A high court judge ruled two years later that Hoogstraten had been behind
the murder and ordered him to pay the victim’s family £6m.
Hoogstraten’s £40m mansion in Uckfield, East Sussex, billed as Britain’s
most expensive private home, remains unfinished.
Giovanni di Stefano, a lawyer who has represented Hoogstraten, said today:
“My feeling is that they target a big shot to send a message to the small
people not to have dealings in currency — it’s a way of managing a country’s
“I would not bet my pension that anything will come of this.”
Nicholas Van Hoogstraten was jailed for manslaughter but later released
Once heralded as Britain's youngest millionaire, Nicholas van Hoogstraten has never made any secret of his robust approach to business.
During one of his many court appearances a judge described the tycoon as a "self-styled emissary of Beelzebub".
From an early age he aspired to be what he calls a "quality person" and was a great fan of Margaret Thatcher because she made him "proud to be English".
He left school at 16, joined the Royal Navy and travelled the world. Just a year later he sold his astutely acquired stamp collection for £1,000 and embarked on a business career, buying property in the Bahamas.
Now he is believed to have homes in Barbados, St Lucia, Florida, Cannes and Zimbabwe.
He has spoken warmly of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whom he once described as "100% decent and incorruptible". He holds vast fortunes in the African country and once said: "I don't believe in democracy, I believe in rule by the fittest."
Nicholas van Hoogstraten, 62, is no stranger to controversy and his list of previous convictions includes ordering a grenade attack on the home of a business associate, a Jewish clergyman who he claimed owed him money.
For that he spent four years in Wormwood Scrubs in the 1960s, but he would later face much more serious charges.
In 1999, Mohammed Raja, 62, was shot dead by two men identified as Mr van Hoogstraten's henchmen, but the tycoon's conviction for manslaughter was quashed by the Court of Appeal in July 2003 and he was freed five months later.
Following his release from prison Mr Raja's family brought a £6m civil action against him.
In December 2005 the civil courts - where the standard of proof required is much lower than the criminal courts - ruled that on the balance of probability, Mr van Hoogstraten was involved in the murder.
High Court judges ordered him to pay £500,000 interim costs but the businessman was typically defiant and stated that Mr Raja's family would "never get a penny".
Mr van Hoogstraten also hit the headlines during an ugly spat with ramblers over a public footpath through the grounds of the enormous mansion near Uckfield in East Sussex.
Called Hamilton Palace, after Bermuda's capital, it is neo-classical, with a copper dome.
It was estimated to have cost about £40m and was reportedly the most expensive private house built in Britain for a century.
It is bigger than Buckingham Palace and has a 600ft art gallery and a mausoleum designed to hold Mr van Hoogstraten's body for 5,000 years. The mausoleum's walls are three feet thick because he said he wanted to "make the building last for ever".
Never afraid of a fight, the tycoon has described taking on a nun at school.
She "tried to whack me with a chair-leg once - I grabbed it and hit her and she never tried again".
He was born in 1946 in Shoreham, East Sussex, as Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten - the "van" was added later. His father was a shipping agent and his mother a housewife.
With the profits he made from his Bahama property deals, he moved on to the British housing market, buying six properties in Notting Hill, London, before moving on to Brighton.
By the time he was 22, he was reputed to have had 350 properties in Sussex alone and to have become Britain's youngest millionaire.
But he also gained a sinister reputation and was accused of using strong-arm tactics against tenants of slum properties which he bought cheaply for redevelopment.
In the 1980s, as the housing market boomed, he prospered, acquiring more than 2,000 properties.
By the 1990s he had sold 90% of them, making massive profits and investing in other areas, including global mining.
When a fire broke out at one of his properties in the early 1990s in Brighton, he described the five people who died in the blaze as "scum".
To Mr van Hoogstraten his tenants are "filth", while people who live in council houses are "worthless and lazy".
He once said: "The only purpose in creating great wealth like mine is to separate oneself from the riffraff."
He has also said he believes that "the whole purpose of having money is to put yourself on a pedestal".
He has five children - four sons and a daughter - by three different mothers.
He said he is preparing his eldest son, Rhett, to take over his empire - which he says is worth £800m.
In a BBC interview in 2002 the property baron said he had no plans to retire, but wanted his son to be groomed to eventually take over.
He said: "I'm still young and fit and I've got a long time to go. I'd like him to shadow me and find out everything that's going on.
"But it's a difficult task because I keep everything close to my chest, nothing's in writing, there are no records of anything."
By David R. Sands
January 26, 2008
Zimbabwe's opposition parties will almost certainly take part in elections
set for March 29, a leading opposition figure said yesterday, even though
President Robert Mugabe has "reneged" on a promise to put off the vote until
key constitutional reforms had taken effect.
David Coltart, a senior member of parliament from the anti-Mugabe Movement
for Democratic Change, told a Washington audience he doubted the
presidential and parliamentary votes would be free or fair, but said it was
unlikely the MDC and other opposition forces could agree on a total boycott
of the election.
"We're damned if we do and damned if we don't" take part in the election,
said Mr. Coltart, a lawyer and leading human rights activist in the southern
The opposition and many international monitors have condemned past elections
in the country, charging they were rigged by the president's ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party. MDC rallies have
been violently disrupted by the government's security forces.
"My own view is that we have little choice but to participate unless we can
organize a total boycott of the process," Mr. Coltart said in remarks to the
Heritage Foundation think tank.
Over opposition objections, Mr. Mugabe's aides yesterday confirmed the vote
will be held at the end of March. The 83-year-old president has ruled the
country since it won independence from Britain in 1980 and will be seeking a
sixth term through 2013.
He is expected to win despite Zimbabwe's international isolation and ruinous
economic policies that have led to severe staple shortages, rampant
unemployment and the world's highest inflation rate, which was unofficially
estimated at 50,000 percent in 2007.
A land reform program — which often amounted to giving productive
white-owned farms to ZANU-PF officials and supporters — is widely blamed for
severe food shortages in a country once considered the bread basket of
The government blames the country's woes on international pressure and
economic restrictions, led by Britain and the United States.
The MDC had pushed for a summer election date to give recent constitutional
and institutional reforms time to take hold. The changes, reluctantly agreed
to by Mr. Mugabe last year, include press reforms, easing restrictions on
opposition gatherings and safeguards to ensure free and fair elections.
Accusing the ZANU-PF leadership of acting in an "exceptionally cynical way,"
Mr. Coltart said, "At the end of the day, there is absolutely no prospect
that the reforms will have any material effect on the electoral environment"
on March 29.
MDC officials said Mr. Mugabe's decision to hold early elections was also an
embarrassment for South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has led a
regional effort to mediate the bitter political dispute.
"What Mugabe has done is a slap in the face, not only of the MDC, but of
Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community," Nelson Chamisa, an
MDC spokesman, told reporters in Harare.
MDC head Morgan Tsvangirai was briefly detained earlier this week before an
opposition rally, reviving memories of a brutal beating he suffered in March
at the hands of security forces during another anti-government gathering.
Mr. Coltart said the government is pressing for a quick vote because it
realizes the economy is on the brink of collapse and because serious
divisions have emerged within Mr. Mugabe's own ZANU-PF ranks. There is a
chance, he said, that the March vote could produce an informal alliance of
MDC lawmakers and ZANU-PF dissidents, leaving Mugabe loyalists in the
minority in parliament.
He added that Zimbabwe's situation is so dire that even modest reforms could
prove fatal to Mr. Mugabe's rule.
"ZANU-PF's core of power is so weak now that once they start down the path
of reforms, they will not be able to control the process," Mr. Coltart said.
From AFP, 26 January
President Robert Mugabe's decision to call an election date in March in the
middle of regional mediation efforts has put Zimbabwe's opposition in a
quandary over whether to participate in the joint polls, analysts said.
Mugabe's announcement led to the fragmented opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) failing to contain its anger as it accused the
veteran leader of "an act of madness." "It's an act of madness and
arrogance," MDC main faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP. "Mugabe has
slapped SADC's commitment and President Thabo Mbeki's efforts to try and
amicably solve the crisis. Mugabe has jumped the gun." The opposition has
tried in vain to get South African President Mbeki to lobby Mugabe to
postpone the election. Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the smaller
faction of the opposition, said Mugabe's announcement had scuttled the
Southern African Development Community's efforts to find a solution to
Zimbabwe's economic and political woes. "The announcement means that Zanu PF
has repudiated the SADC process and repudiated the talks. As far as we are
concerned that process (negotiations) has been terminated by Zanu PF," Ncube
told AFP. "By that very act of calling an election under the circumstances
where the mediator is trying to find a solution to that dispute ... means
effectively they have repudiated the talks. As far as we are concerned that
is the end of that process. We wait to see what SADC will do."
Mbeki was tasked by his fellow southern African leaders last year with
mediating between veteran Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party and the main
opposition MDC after a number of its leaders were assaulted by the security
services. Bill Saidi, a Harare based political commentator, said the
opposition was in a quandary as to whether to take part in the election or
not. "They are faced with a serious dilemma whether to participate or not,"
he said. "They think they owe it to the electorate by participating yet they
know they are going to lose. They are under pressure to take part, but the
playing field is not fair for them. It's like they are taking a plunge by
participating." According to Friday's announcement, that was made in the
extraordinary government gazette, the elections are set to be held on March
29 whilst Mugabe will dissolve parliament on March 28. The nomination court
to accept candidates for the polls is expected to sit on February 8.
Eldred Masunungure, a political sciencitist at the University of Zimbabwe
said there was no doubt that Mugabe would win. "It's a foregone conclusion
that Zanu PF would win and particulary Mugabe would be re-elected," he said.
"The ruling party has not only been more organised, it has maintained its
rural area stranglehold." Masungurure also warned that the MDC did not have
time to come up with single candidates for both parliament and the senate.
"The nomination court will sit in two weeks time, and yet they don't have a
single candidate for the presidency," he said. Ncube said the factions of
the main opposition party would now hold talks with the other half of the
MDC, adding that it was not too late for them to mount a serious challenge
to Mugabe. "It means we have to respond by acting more urgently. We will be
spending the next 48 hours trying to fast forward what we were doing."
Takura Zhangazha, a political scientist, echoed Saidi's sentiments saying
the opposition was in a "catch 22 situation." "They must however participate
with a clear message (that it is) in an unfair environment. If they don't
participate they will lose the national rallying point of the struggle." A
total of five million voters out of the country's 13 million people have so
far registered to vote in the March elections, according to figures released
by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which is in charge of monitoring
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: January 26, 2008
WASHINGTON: The United States is criticizing Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe for abruptly setting presidential and parliamentary elections for
March 29, earlier than expected under a regional plan to restore democracy
to the southern African country.
Mugabe's government announced the decision Friday. The opposition Movement
for Democratic Change had demanded constitutional and electoral reforms
before the election and said polling should be delayed until June to allow
for its demands to be met.
The Southern African Development Community is sponsoring the elections as
part of an effort to resolve through dialogue Zimbabwe's deepening political
and economic crisis.
"We have supported the SADC-sponsored effort to resolve the political and
economic crisis in Zimbabwe through negotiation between the ruling and
opposition parties," U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said
Friday. "We regret that President Mugabe has insisted on proceeding ...
without having reached an agreement on conditions that would have leveled
the playing field for all parties planning to compete in those elections."
Casey said police assaults on demonstrators Wednesday "is further
illustration of the government of Zimbabwe undermining the spirit of the
Mail and Guardian
26 January 2008 11:49
A white Zimbabwean farmer has been ordered to vacate his farm
after the Supreme Court dismissed his application to stop the government
from acquiring it, the government mouthpiece Herald reported on Saturday.
Justice Luke Malaba dismissed the constitutional challenge by
Michael Campbell, a former owner of Mount Camel in Chegutu, 100km south-west
of the capital.
In his ruling, Malaba upheld the sections which Campbell claimed
infringed upon his fundamental rights as enshrined in Zimbabwe's Bill of
Rights, for lack of merit.
"The application is accordingly dismissed," Malaba is quoted as
saying by the paper.
The ruling effectively means Campbell must leave his farm to
allow President Robert Mugabe's government to take it over.
Last month a Southern African regional tribunal in Namibia ruled
that Campbell could remain on his property pending proceedings from
Zimbabwe's Supreme Court.
Campbell is currently facing criminal charges in the Chegutu
Magistrate’s Court for remaining on his farm and could be jailed for up to
In October last year, a group of 11 remaining white farmers in
Zimbabwe filed an appeal seeking a court order to stop their planned
The move came after a magistrate in Chegutu ruled the group had
been abusing the legal process in order to delay their fate.
About nine years ago, the Zimbabwean government embarked on a
controversial reform programme to acquire millions of hectares of land from
white farmers and redistribute it to black ZImbabweans.
About 4 500 white farmers owned a third of the country's land,
including 70% of prime farmland before the government launched the
programme. – Sapa-AFP
The Zimbabwe Vigil says that the leader of its partner organisation,
Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe), has been detained
by police in Harare.† The Vigil said it had received a text message from
ROHR leader Stendrick Zvorwadza at about 5 pm today UK time (Friday, 25/1).
It read "arrested and under interrogation, have been detained 4 hours so
†far".† The Vigil tried to phone him† but the phone was not answered.
Eventually at 11 pm UK time Sten picked up his phone.† He reported he was
still in police custody in a cell with 200 others.† Other ROHR activists had
been beaten up following a protest today but were now out on bail.† Sten was
hopeful that with the help of lawyers he would be out on bail on Saturday
when we hope to speak to him again The Vigil says conversation with him was
difficult because he was exhausted by his ordeal.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
26th January 2008
Following this last week's events in Zimbabwe was rather like trying to
disentangle the twists and turns of a particularly lurid political thriller.
Yet in a strange way it was all entirely predictable, knowing the ruling
party as we do - or ought to by now - we should all have realised that Zanu
PF were never going to allow any real exercise of democracy on the streets
of Harare. One of the problems for Zimbabweans so far away from home was
that hard facts were almost impossible to come by because of an almost
complete breakdown of communications due to constant power cuts in Zimbabwe
and restricted telephone contact.
It wasn't until I read Thursday's account by Jan Raath in The Times that I
felt reasonably able to sort out the details though I'm still not clear
exactly how many Zimbabweans risked the wrath of the Zimbabwean police and
assorted thugs, acting presumably on orders from above. Perhaps it doesn't
really matter how many there were out on the streets; the truth is that
despite all the barriers in their way, despite the daily privations and
misery of their lives hundreds of ordinary Zimbabweans found the courage to
demonstrate their anger and frustration at their government's total
inability to control any aspect of the crisis gripping the country. We
should salute their courage instead of complaining- as many commentators
have - about the lack of strategic planning..
Wednesday was the day of the MDC's Freedom March in Harare. The police had
initially given their approval for the march and then withdrawn it at the
last minute. We remember that Zanu PF's so- called Million Man March earlier
this year went ahead without any interference from the 'custodians of law
and order'; on the contrary the police actually escorted the marchers right
through the city centre. Not so with the opposition demonstration, the MDC
were forced to apply for a court order to overturn the police refusal to
allow the march. The MDC believed that in the light of the amended POSA they
had the right under the law to demonstrate and accordingly they appealed to
the courts. A magistrate duly granted the opposition the right to rally at
Glamis Stadium- albeit with a strict time limit for the rally to end - but
disallowed the march through the city.
That judgement in itself created the perfect opportunity for the police to
attack the demonstrators as they assembled for the twenty minute walk to
Glamis Stadium. In charged the police, discharging acrid teargas with batons
flailing in all directions. There were several arrests and dozens of people
were badly beaten. Undeterred the crowd made their way to the rally venue
where they believed they would be addressed by their president, Morgan
But the police had already dealt with that contingency. In pre-dawn darkness
at 4.30 that Wednesday morning they had gone to Tsvangirai's home and
arrested him. Later Wayne Bvudzijena the police spokesperson claimed that
they had 'invited' the opposition leader to accompany them to Harare
Central. Strange time to issue an invitation you might think but, as usual,
the Zimbabwe police were reduced to Keystone Cops as they frantically sought
to make themselves look like bona fide and impartial custodians of the law.
The MDC they claimed had 'sinister motives'. Well, yes you would say that I
suppose if you consider that the MDC demands nothing less than a new
constitution, a new voters' roll and an independent electoral commission.
Those things could only be construed as 'sinister' if you were a police
force supporting a regime that has blatantly denied the people of Zimbabwe
their democratic rights and, even after ten months of negotiations, still
has no intention of allowing the opposition's voice to be heard.
I believe that there are two important lessons to be learned from the
chaotic events of Wednesday the 24th January. The most important, the one
that should give us all hope for the future, is that resistance is not dead
in Zimbabwe. There are still men and women who find the courage to stand up
for the common good even when it seems all hope is lost. The words of the
MDC banner carried by the demonstrators said it all;
NO to high prices; NO to water and power cuts; NO to corruption; NO to
hyperinflation; NO to misgovernance. What the people want is the right to
live with decency and dignity. There is nothing 'sinister' about those
demands, they are for simple human needs; only a ruling party that clearly
has no intention of listening to the people could be frightened of them
because they know they cannot - or will not - deliver.
The second lesson for all Zimbabweans in and outside the country is that we
will never achieve our freedom unless we are prepared to unite and stand
together against a common enemy. The one achievement of the Zanu PF
government is that they have created disunity in every area of life. We see
it even in the Anglican church with the behaviour of the rogue bishop
Kunonga and the tragedy of divided worshippers. There has been no national
vision for a united future. 'Each man for himself' has become the norm in
the desperate struggle for survival. And we see these divisions even here in
the diaspora where ambitious individuals with their own agendas struggle for
positions of power. Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora need to remember
that as individuals we can achieve little but united in peaceful protest we
can bring an end to this nightmare of injustice and deprivation that
prevails in Zimbabwe.
One for all and all for one cause, the cause of freedom and justice.
Yours in the struggle. PH.
Her smiles still vivid in my thoughts and she used to call me Border,
jokingly of course,† as a pseudo name derived from the brutal ZANU(PF)
madzibaba whom I contested with in June 2000 parliamentary election. Getrude
was the finest woman politician I have ever met, mixing jokes and political
stature. What then went wrong sister? I learnt with regret that she passed
away on Saturday 19 January 2008 after a short illness.
We were the same age group yet she was privileged to have made a leadership
impact earlier than me. I looked to her as my mentor, speaking to her one
would hardly notice her feminine side, she was frank to the point that
sometimes you would wish you would apply brakes on her behalf, yes that was
her inner being that mattered. She was a tough woman and when I heard that
she was contesting to be a Vice President of MDC, I was sure that it was
going to be a tough contest. I had had the privilege of working with both
women, Thoko and Getrude, I would be lying to say any one of them was taller
in thought than the other, wonder why the delegates had a tough choice.
She was a simple woman who always preferred a bold head with a natural
Ndebele traditional beauty. I have such poor Ndebele language vocabulary and
she was more than willing to teach me basics which I am grateful for. As I
was a National member, I had to travel through out Zimbabwe and this was to
prove very helpful. Soon I was to find myself working for the party in
Matebeleland and the people I met more often were Getrude Muthombeni and
Steve Mudenda of† Bulawayo and Matebeleland North respectively. I worked
extensively with these politicians such that we had personal numbers of each
other. It was not surprising to receive a call in the middle of the night
from Getrude or Steve. They all sympathised with my situation in Bindura
which was the HQ of the militia and a haven of brutality.
To those who have known Getrude we have been robbed of true cadre of the
struggle in MDC. Her departure will be felt and the replacement difficult to
find. I say to Getrude R.I.P. We salute you; we envy your political pathway.
Your death is not in vain we will continue the struggle where you left until
victory. Such a loss tend to strengthen us knowing it very well that victory
is on our side.
Aluta Continua, New Zimbabwe, new beginning.
Elliot Pfebve is a former MP candidate for Bindura and former National
Executive member of MDC.
†"Politicians risk being irrelevant for advocating strategies out of their
political capacity. This is not a game of loosely knitted words, it is about
action and indeed shouldering surmountable risks. Politics is not a
business; it is about building a viable national pride against all odds,
bulldozing the obstacles along the way no matter what it takes" E. Pfebve