By Fanuel Kangondo
Everyone knows that there are people who are filthy rich in this country. But will we ever be able to know who really the richest person in Zimbabwe is? Or will it remain a subject for speculation as the big fish appear determined to swim in the darkest depths?There are stories of politicians who practically own some towns and church leaders who have gobbled up choice real estate in the best parts of Harare. Then there are the party animals like Wicknell Chivhayo and Genius Kadungure, who are known for hosting mammoth social events but do not seem to feature at the top of any formal profile of Zimbabwe's rich people.
Real wealth, as they say, speaks for itself and the real men and women of substance seem content to live their lives in quiet splendour behind their high mansion walls.
But if you do something well, people will notice and they will talk about your excellence and naturally your success will serve as an inspiration to many. Leading telecommunications mogul Strive Masiyiwa has been noticed on a global scale as one of the richest men in Africa with a net worth of over US$800 million. He is widely regarded as the richest man in Zimbabwe.
Judging people by the car they drive, the house they live in or the properties they claim to own seems a chancy yardstick in this debt-ridden world. There is no official list of Zimbabwe's richest men and women such as the one compiled by The Times and Forbes leaving the standings highly speculative.
While it is expected that entrepreneurs always head the list, there are some politicians, top civil servants and public company CEOs who seem to be enjoying the high life. But most are not willing to explain their expensive cars, holidays abroad, spoiled brats who reportedly go through pocket allowances of US$20 000 monthly and other expensive tastes.
After Masiyiwa, little known entrepreneur Takudzwa Razemba (in his early 20s) of Orbz Investment Corporation seems to be the next rich person in the country. His empire is valued at over US$780 million according to a list compiled by Zimdev.
Getting him to talk about his wealth has always been tough.
"There is a serious problem of the 'pull-him-down' syndrome in this country. When people see you climb the ladder or when they know how much you are worth, they want to see you down and destroyed," he said in an interview earlier this year. He added that you survive best when people know nothing about you.
"I don't want to be in the limelight, the media destroys people's lives especially when you are a public figure."
Razemba, however admits that he is a multi-millionaire and has plans of creating one of the biggest stockbroking firms in Southern Africa and also open a commercial bank. Some of his outfits are listed on the FTSE and the London Stock Exchange. The companies are operating in the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Dubai, and Canada.
British businessman with vast interests in Zimbabwe Nic Van Hoogstraten with an estimated net worth of US$729 million also has a standing among the country's richest with investments in the tourism, mining and property sectors. Mining and transport mogul Billy Rautenbach (US$568 million), whose empire spans across several African countries, is another wealthy Zimbabwean.
There is also room for TA Holdings and Joina Centre front- man Shingi Mutasa whose strategic acquisitions strategy propelled him from mere commodity broker to one of the richest businessmen in the country. He seems to be another publicity-shy fellow with his net worth of US$142 million believed to be understated.
He once said in an interview: "My success hinges on four words – name, value, integrity and vision." How insightful!
Businessman and politician Philip Chiyangwa refuses to be outdone and was recently in the newspapers when his wife of 25 years filed for divorce and demanded a significant share of his wealth valued at US$288 million. Among some of his listed assets are a Rolls Royce Phantom worth US$475 000, a Bentley (US$350 000), a Mercedes-Benz GLS (US$300 000) substantial shareholding in 39 companies and interests in over 100 properties.
Another rising entrepreneur dodging the limelight is Moses Chingwena of Croco Motors, Duly's, Premier Auto Services and Kia legacy who seems to have been steadily climbing the Zim richest ladder without incident. He also has interests in numerous other undertakings and counters on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. He, like most of his peers at the top, prefers to be in the background.
Women appear to be even more reticent than men when it comes to exposing their portfolios. But that is not to say that none of them are very rich. Some female politicians and women have also claimed their stake with many quietly building empires.
Prominent and not necessarily the richest, Divine Ndhlukula of Securico, reportedly collects annual revenue of US13 million with a staff complement of 3 400. There are no ready indications of her net worth. Corporate lawyer Florence Ziumbe, who is the founder of Professional Women Executives and Business Women's Forum, has also made her mark, but again, her pickings are not known.
Zimbabweans making waves in the region include MTN group chief executive and president Sifiso Dabengwa. His annual salary of R22,5 million makes him one of the most influential business executives on the continent. His counterpart, Ben Magara, the CEO of Anglo Coal South Africa, is also another leading light for Zimbabwe but again, his net worth is not known.
Do you need to be paranoid to be a Zimbabwean millionaire?