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By Ray Ndlovu and James Thompson

The state security detail provided by the Zimbabwe government for Grace Mugabe and her three children has been withdrawn, according to sources familiar with the developments.

Grace and Robert Mugabe at a Zanu PF rallyGrace and Robert Mugabe at a Zanu PF rallygrace and robert

The withdrawal was effective at the beginning of 2018.

It means that only former president Robert Mugabe now enjoys the provision of state security — a marked turn of events for the former first family.

The perks that Mugabe is entitled to enjoy have been gazetted under the Presidential Pension and Retirement Packages notice of 2017 and was issued in a government gazette in December.

Bona Mugabe, the couple’s eldest child is in Singapore where she is expected to give birth to her second child with Simba Chikore, her husband.

Robert Mugabe Jnr and Bellarmine Chatunga Mugabe are in Johannesburg, were they are students at a local institution.

The withdrawal of state security is likely to force the Mugabes to turn to the services of private security companies to provide them with protection.

In particular, their sons are notorious within Johannesburg’s party scene for their wild party lifestyles.

The removal of state security for individual members of the Mugabe household is largely seen to be part of the wider austerity measures that the administration under new President Emmerson Mnangagwa is set to implement.

Although presidential spokesperson George Charamba would not be drawn to comment on the matter, he told a local daily newspaper in Harare on Thursday that it would be “expensive for the government to provide security” for Mugabe’s family.

“I think the idea is that security details and other benefits are accrued to the principal [Mugabe]. Other members now enjoy through the principal and not by virtue of their position or association,” he said.

It is understood that Mugabe’s former aide, Ray Ndhlukula, informed Grace Mugabe earlier in January that the government gazette was specific only towards the former president and had no mention of family members.

Ndhlukula did not respond to a request for comment. He said he “was in a meeting”.

“It’s embarrassing to say the least. Withdrawing security will expose them to people who might want to harm them. In other words if they are not with the former president at anytime, their security is not guaranteed. Its standard practice that every family member of former heads of state are protected by the state but what’s happening now is sad,” said an insider familiar with the developments.

The benefits Mugabe is set to receive include a state-funded domestic worker, a gardener, two drivers, a private secretary, a close security unit officer and two aide-de-camp officers.

Mugabe will also make use of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, a TV set, a state office and a telephone in addition to medical aid and air travel allowances.

The former Zimbabwe strongman turns 94 in February and regularly travels to Singapore for medical check-ups. Since his resignation from office in November, Mugabe has largely been at his private residence in Borrowdale in Harare.

He left for a medical check-up in Singapore in December without his wife.

A persistent US dollar shortage in Zimbabwe that is now in its second consecutive year has seen Mnangagwa push for belt-tightening across the government, while he also embarks on a crusade against corruption.

From January, public servants older than 65 years are being made to retire, as the government attempts to reduce the size of its wage bill. At the end of last month, 538 public servants without qualifications were dismissed from work.

Meanwhile, a crackdown on high profile figures has persisted, and has drawn the public’s eye to the attempts by the new administration to crack down against officials who face various charges.

Those include former finance minister Ignatius Chombo, former sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane, former agriculture minister Joseph Made, former foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi, former mines minister Walter Chidhakwa and former energy minister Samuel Undenge. Businesslive