By Ivor Powell
The Mugabe children might not suggest themselves as poster boys for good parenting, judging from recent media reports.
But Bob and Grace Mugabe can possibly take comfort from the fact they are far from alone among leaders in having foisted some overindulged and charm-challenged progeny on history.
Indeed the R70000 plus monthly rental reportedly paid for the young Mugabes’ accommodation in Johannesburg – after getting kicked out of Dubai for obnoxious behaviour and their matching champagne-lifestyle allowances – seem spartan by comparison with some of their peers.
Even by dictator-bling standards Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue – 48-year-old son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasongo who, having seized power in Equatorial Guinea in 1979, qualifies as Africa’s longest ruling head of government – has exhibited a style that could reasonably be described as grotesque.
In 2006, for instance, Teodoro Jr (known as Teodorin) blew around R10m in a weekend in Cape Town, acquiring among other things, two upmarket properties – one in Constantia, the other on the Atlantic seaboard – two Bentleys and a Lamborghini Murcielago.
He was just getting started in those days. At the height of his ostentation, Teodorin, who serves as vice-president although he is hardly ever in the country, also owned: homes in Buenos Aires and London; a $30m mansion in Malibu, California; a mansion in Paris’ 16th arondissement worth an estimated $200m if you include furnishings and paintings by Renoir and Degas, bathroom taps covered in gold leaf, a spa and a cinema, a hair salon and a sports centre.
He had a private jet valued at $38m; at least one yacht – the 76-foot Ebony Shine – but allegedly two; an ultra-rare Koenigsegg One supercar worth $2.8m, a $2m Bugatti, as well as more Ferraris, Bugattis, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis and the like than you could shake a dipstick at; his own vanity hip-hop music label.
He also boasted a somewhat macabre trophy, the crystal-studded glove worn by Michael Jackson on tour promoting the Bad album.
Those were the glory days for Teodorin before the authorities in the US were finally stung into action by what the US Justice Department referred to as a “corruption-fuelled spending spree in the United States” – funded by around $300m obtained through embezzlement, extortion and money laundering.
Seizing assets and and freezing accounts, Uncle Sam took possession of property worth around $30m and a dozen supercars. Obiang was, however able to hang on to the Michael Jackson gauntlet and the Gulfstream jet.
The US action was just the beginning as European interests led by the NGO Transparency International put him up on charges of corruption and money laundering, mobilising the governments of France, Switzerland and the Netherlands to seize his $200m Paris mansion, the art collection he bought from the estate of fashion designer Yves St Laurent, another batch of supercars including the Koeningsegg – of which only seven were ever made – and his nautical treasure, the Ebony Shine.
The levels of conspicuous consumption associated with Teodorin Obiang are startling. But, while oil and timber rich, Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country of fewer than 1.5 million people, and the possibilities for rapacity and corruption remain circumscribed.