Zipra commanders who spoke to this newspaper said the double storey house, at 37 Straker Avenue in Gunhill, is among several properties that the government seized from Zipra in the 1980s following the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
The former commanders said the house was bought for the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo using funds contributed by Zipra combatants.
“That house is one of the properties that Zipra bought using funds pulled together by the former fighters and it was supposed to be for our president,” said one former commander. “We hope to get it back when all the other properties are returned.”
But on Friday Mapondera dismissed the claims by the war veterans saying he bought the house from the Fernandos family, who have since left the country.
“This is absolutely nonsense,” said Mapondera, a relative to President Robert Mugabe.
“I bought this house some 15 to 20 years ago. Some people claiming to be from Zipra once came here and I told them I had bought this house from the Fernandos.
“They had no papers to back their claim. It has nothing to do with Zipra.”
Mapondera said he would show the agreement of sale or title deeds to The Standard to prove that he bought the house.
But yesterday, he became unco-operative saying, “Check for yourself at the deeds office,” although the office is closed on weekends.
Former Zipra commander and Nkomo’s personal bodyguard, Frederick Mutanda confirmed the dispute but refused to give details.
“This is a sensitive issue on our part which we still believe can be resolved quietly but we don’t take it kindly when people start denigrating our leader,” said Mutanda.
“We kindly refer you to talk to the Minister of Defence (Emmerson Mnangagwa), he is the man who knows the truth about the whole thing.”
Efforts to get a comment from Mnangagwa were fruitless last week.
But documents that were shown to The Standard indicated that the posh house was one of the disputed Zapu properties that Nkomo was claiming before his death in 1999.
Six other houses are in Waterfalls, Houghton Park and Breaside. The properties also include six commercial buildings in Harare and Bulawayo.
Zipra also wants eight farms, also seized by government, returned.
The documents also show that President Robert Mugabe at some point directed Mnangagwa, who was Minister of Justice then, to return some of the properties to Nkomo.
Nkomo criticised Mnangagwa over properties
In a letter dated December 29 1995, Nkomo accused Mnangagwa of playing hide-and-seek regarding the return of Nkomo’s and Zipra’s properties.
“His Excellence the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde RG Mugabe directed you to discuss the modalities of the return of my properties to me,” wrote Nkomo.
“It would however seem that you have been prevaricating on the subject, absenting yourself whenever I call you to discuss that issue with me.”
Nkomo attached the list of properties which included the Gunhill house.
The late VP also wanted government to settle his debts accrued as a result of the seizure of the properties.
“You are also in possession of my financial statements indicating my indebtedness to several financial institutions including commercial banks,” Nkomo said.
“This came about as a result of the seizure of my properties and I will therefore expect you to settle these debts.”
He demanded that this be met by January 1 1996.
But in a letter of response on January 26 1996, Mnangagwa confirmed the return of Nkomo’s ranches including Walner Ranch in Kezi, Matabeleland.
“As regards any other property, there has never been instruction to change ownership,” Mnangagwa said.
Authoritative sources said the issue of Zipra properties had also taken centre stage in the government of national unity with some Zipra commanders having written to both Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai demanding that the properties be returned.