Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko is set to move out of his upmarket hotel room – a year after he checked in – as the government has finally secured a $4 million house for him in Harare’s plush Grange suburb.
After NewsDay revealed that Mphoko had been living in the hotel for almost 300 days, pressure on him to leave the presidential suite had been ratcheted up in the past few weeks, culminating in the arrest of activists who demonstrated against him last week at Rainbow Towers Hotel.
Local Government ministry permanent secretary George Mlilo yesterday said the government had finally secured a house for Mphoko, although he declined to reveal its location and value.
“We have started a process to acquire a suitable house for the VP,” he said yesterday.
We identified a property and we are in the process of its acquisition. After that, we shall see if there is need for its customisation to meet the standards and demands of a Vice-President, then he can move in.
“The house is not in Gunhill as is being said, but I will not disclose to you the exact area, the best description would be, it is in one of the leafy suburbs of Harare befitting of a VP. Don’t ask many questions, what is critical is that we have found suitable accommodation for our Vice-President.”
A government insider confirmed that a house had been found for Mphoko, although it was not clear when he is expected to move in.
“The Vice-President has finally settled for a house in The Grange and we will be making some payments soon,” a source said. “The property is valued at between $3,5 million and $4 million.”
The source revealed that the government was purchasing the house on a loan deal. Details of the loan deal were still unavailable.
Early this year, Mphoko’s wife, Laurinda, reportedly rejected three houses, among them a mansion in Ballantyne Park worth $3 million, claiming that it was too small for a person of the VP’s stature.
The Mphokos also refused to move into the house left by the late Vice-President Joseph Msika in Mandara, saying they wanted a residence of their own.
Two months ago, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was at pains to explain to opposition legislators why Mphoko continued to stay in an upmarket hotel at the taxpayers’ expense.
Mnangagwa claimed then that government had not yet secured a suitable house for his counterpart.
Mphoko’s demand for an upmarket house is in direct contrast with his predecessor, the late Vice-President John Nkomo, who lived in a modest double-storey government house in Milton Park. Government is, according to the Constitution, obliged to provide State accommodation to Vice-Presidents, who are also entitled to buy the properties at market value when their tenure of office ends.