A cousin of Robert Mugabe accumulated assets worth an estimated 180 million ($360 million), according to a divorce case in Zimbabwe that has thrown a spotlight on the vast wealth acquired by the regime's inner circle.

Details of Phillip Chiyangwa's assets were placed before the Harare high court by his wife, Elizabeth, who is seeking 85 per cent of her husband's assets and maintenance of 53,000 a month for 10 years.

Although Zimbabweans are aware that some prominent members of the ruling Zanu-PF party have grown very rich since independence in 1980, it is unusual for details to be exposed. The economy teetered on the brink of collapse for several years before picking up recently, though the World Food Programme is still seeking funding to feed about two million people.

The list of Chiyangwa's assets included more than 100 properties, many of them large houses in the capital's best suburbs, and more than a dozen industrial properties. There are several farms on the list, although it is not clear whether these were taken from white farmers since the start of Zanu-PF's land grab in 2000, or whether Chiyangwa, 63, bought them. Elizabeth Chiyangwa also claims her husband owns a Rolls-Royce Phantom and a Bentley, which she valued at 290,000 and 213,000 respectively, as well as a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles and a range of sports utility vehicles. The home the couple shared, not far from Mugabe's private mansion in Harare, has 43 rooms.


The asset register lodged with the court listed more than 40 companies, including engineering, manufacturing and finance firms.

"I was accustomed to a life of unreserved flamboyance and can state without hesitation that I have, for the past 25 years, enjoyed a very high standard of living, way beyond that of most, if not indeed the rest of Zimbabwean society, if not the entire African society," she said in the court filings. Before she split from her husband, she said in an interview that she had no explanation for the family's wealth, except that it was "God's gift".

Chiyangwa insists that he earned his wealth through hard work. "Many of those properties listed by my wife are not mine. They belong to other businessmen. The valuations are from 2008, from the hyperinflationary era and my assets are held in trust."

A former policeman in Rhodesia, he became a Zanu-PF MP and rose to become party chairman in the Mashonaland West region. In 1996, he proposed the campaign to grab white-owned farms, threatening "Rwanda" if farmers did not leave. He became renowned as a tycoon and created Native Africa Invest ments as a parent company for wide-ranging interests.

In 2004, he was arrested and detained by Mugabe's central intelligence organisation after being accused of passing state secrets to South Africa, before finding favour with the regime again.