Zimbabwe freezes Shs1b mansions of Uganda Red Cross boss

 Mr Robert Kwesiga (pictured) took over leadership of URCS after Mr Richard Michael Nataka, the former secretary general, and his management were fired on allegations of corruption in 2015. Photo | File

What you need to know:

Mr. Kwesiga, the Secretary General of the Uganda Red Cross Society, and his wife have 30 days to explain the source of the money used to purchase the mansions or risk them being seized by the government.

Zimbabwe High Court has frozen Mr Robert Kwesiga and wife Sandie Hilda’s two $300,000 (about Shs1.14b) mansions in the posh suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe, on allegations of corruption.

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 judgment on May 15, 2024, the court gave Mr Kwesiga and his wife up to 30 days to explain the source of the money they used to buy the two mansions or the government seizes them.

The two mansions were bought in Mt Pleasant and Vainona suburbs in Harare Capital City, Zimbabwe, in 2012.

The National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe Prosecutor-General, the equivalent of Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecutions, preferred charges against Mr Kwesiga and wife after suspecting that the source of money used to buy the mansion was obtained through illegitimate means.

“The couple has 30 days to satisfactorily explain how they managed to purchase those homes or risk them being declared tainted and subsequently forfeited to the state. In addition, they or anyone acting on their behalf is restrained from disposing of the property until the order is varied or set aside by the court. The judgment was handed down on Wednesday, the 15th of May, 2024,” a statement from the Zimbabwe Prosecutor-General read in part.

The corruption allegations against Mr Kwesiga have, however, not been proven.

Zimbabwe Prosecutor-General described the court judgment as a victory against crime and corruption.

“In another victory in the fight against crime and corruption, a Uganda couple is on the brink of being stripped of its properties worth $300,000 in Mt Pleasant and Vainona after being ordered by the High Court to explain how they acquired the houses,” the Prosecutor-General statement further read in part.

The Prosecutor-General said there are reasonable grounds for “suspecting that the couple was involved in serious crime as their lawful income was insufficient to enable them to lawfully acquire the properties.”

“In absence of a paper trail reflecting the origin and movement of the money that was used to purchase both houses only further compounded the suspicions of the State,” the Prosecutor-General said.

Kwesiga responds

However, Mr Kwesiga, whose response was shared with us via a WhatsApp message by the spokesperson of URCS, Ms Irene Nakasiita, said he and wife bought the properties using legally obtained funds.

“Since this is a matter before the court in Zimbabwe, I can’t say much but to allow the court process to proceed without jeopardy. What I can say is we acquired the property in 2012 through authentic and legal procedures with legitimate income.  I was working as an expatriate with diplomatic accreditation from 2005–2013,” Mr Kwesiga said in the message.

Mr Kwesiga said although the court decision was a shocker to him and his wife, they have shared the documents that the court wants, with his lawyers, who will then submit them to the court.

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

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

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

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

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

The URCS was established in Uganda in 1964 to intervene in humanitarian efforts, including helping people affected in conflict and accidents. It is also critical in donation drives across the country.


  Mr Robert Kwesiga (pictured) took over leadership of URCS after Mr Richard Michael Nataka, the former secretary general, and his management were fired on allegations of corruption in 2015. Mr Nataka was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail for defrauding his employer of more than Shs1.2b in 2013.