Zimbabwe freezes Uganda Red Cross chief’s 1 billion shilling mansions

Zimbabwe’s High Court has frozen the two $300,000 (about Sh1.14 billion) mansions of Robert Kwesiga and his wife Sandie Hilda in the posh suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe, over corruption allegations.

Mr Kwesiga is the Secretary General of the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) and worked for the Danish Red Cross in Zimbabwe between 2007 and 2013.

In its ruling on May 15, 2024, the court gave Mr. Kwesiga and his wife up to 30 days to explain the origin of the money they used to buy the two mansions or the government will confiscate them.

The two mansions were purchased in the suburbs of Mt Pleasant and Vainona in the capital city of Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2012.

Zimbabwe’s National Prosecution Service, Attorney General, equivalent to Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecutions, brought charges against Mr Kwesiga and his wife after suspecting that the source of the money used to purchase the mansion was obtained through illegitimate means.

“The couple has 30 days to satisfactorily explain how they managed to purchase those homes or risk having them declared contaminated and subsequently confiscated to the state. Furthermore, they or anyone acting on their behalf cannot dispose of the property until the court modifies or sets aside the order. The sentence was handed down on Wednesday, May 15, 2024,” a statement from the Attorney General of Zimbabwe reads in part.

However, allegations of corruption against Kwesiga have not been proven.

Zimbabwe’s Attorney General described the court ruling as a victory against crime and corruption.

“In another victory in the fight against crime and corruption, a Ugandan couple is about to be stripped of their $300,000 properties in Mt Pleasant and Vainona after the High Court ordered them to explain how they acquired the houses ”, stated the Prosecutor. -General statement read additionally in part.

The Attorney General said there are reasonable grounds to “suspect that the couple was involved in serious crime as their legal income was insufficient to enable them to legally acquire the properties.”

“The absence of a documentary trail reflecting the origin and movement of the money that was used to purchase both houses only further aggravated the State’s suspicions,” said the Attorney General.

However, Mr Kwesiga, whose response was shared with us via WhatsApp message by URCS Spokesperson, Mrs Irene Nakasiita, said he and his wife purchased the properties using legally obtained funds.

“Given that this is a matter before the court in Zimbabwe, I cannot say much other than to allow the judicial process to proceed safely. What I can say is that we acquired the property in 2012 through authentic and legal procedures with legitimate income. I was working as an expatriate with diplomatic accreditation between 2005 and 2013,” Kwesiga said in the message.

Kwesiga said although the court decision came as a surprise to him and his wife, they shared the documents the court wants with their lawyers who will then present them to the court.

“This is not a trial. The judge asked for documents to accompany the property in question and these were shared with the attorneys. “This came as a surprise to us, but our legal team is handling it and we await the final verdict,” he said.

Mr Kwesiga joined the Uganda Red Cross in 1991 as a program officer and rose through the ranks to become its general secretary in 1999.

In 2005, he was appointed coordinator of the Southern African Red Cross based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Ms Nakasiita said the problems in Zimbabwe have nothing to do with the Uganda Red Cross.

“However, as far as the story you spoke of is concerned, Robert acquired that property while working in Zimbabwe many years ago and therefore this has nothing to do with his current role as Secretary General of the Red Cross of Uganda,” Ms. Nakasiita said yesterday. .

The URCS was established in Uganda in 1964 to intervene in humanitarian efforts, including aid to people affected by conflict and accidents. It is also essential in donation campaigns throughout the country.

Robert Kwesiga (pictured) took over leadership of the URCS after Richard Michael Nataka, the former secretary-general, and his management were fired over corruption allegations in 2015. Nataka was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for defrauding his employer of more than 1.2 billion shillings in 2013.