A ZIMBABWEAN businessman has been named among some of Africa’s youngest United States dollar millionaires with “incredible success stories” by a South African newspaper.
The New Age described property and micro finance magnate, Frank Buyanga, 35, as an “entrepreneurial ray of hope”.
Buyanga, who recently splashed on a US$345,000 Bentley Mulsanne, was named alongside five other “US dollar millionaires from South Africa and the rest of the continent who have inspirational stories”.
“Zimbabwe may be experiencing the worst economic meltdown in its history but Frank Buyanga has proved to be an entrepreneurial ray of hope for young businesspeople hoping to make it,” the New Age reported.
Buyanga, the paper added, is “among the richest young businesspeople in Africa… with impressive investments in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and as far as the United Kingdom.”
The report however noted that Buyanga’s success had “upset his competitors in his home country who accused him of conning people of their properties” leading to a lengthy police investigation which was wound up in January with the Zimbabwe Republic Police stating in High Court papers that it had found no evidence of criminality against him.
The New Age also listed 44-year-old South African billionaire Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal; 38-year-old Mark Shuttleworth who founded Thawte, an internet security firm; Nigerian Uche Pedro, founder of Nigeria’s authoritative entertainment and fashion website Bella Naija, and South African Sbusiso Leope, also known as DJ Sbu, who left the studio to become a bestselling author and recently launched a new energy drink, Mo-Faya.
Buyanga’s Hamilton business portfolio has tentacles spread across property investments, micro finance lending, insurance and funeral assurance following his recent acquisition of Cell Funeral.
The flamboyant businessman, with an estimated US$20 million personal fortune, has used some of his riches to amass an impressive garage of supercars – his latest toy a 2014 $345,000 Bentley Mulsanne named last August in BBC Top Gear’s top five luxury cars that guarantee “utter serenity”.
The Bentley, which came third in that list, “will show those peasants who is boss,” Top Gear said in the review, which listed the Rolls-Royce Phantom EWB as the ultimate and the Mercedes Benz S-Class 350 BlueEfficiency as its first runner up.
Who is Frank Buyanga?
He has gained notoriety in Zimbabwe as a ruthless “loan shark” whose debt collection methods would make the Gestapo envious.
Because he is wanted on fraud charges in the UK, Buyanga appeared to have misled the regulatory authorities in Zimbabwe about his background which should have precluded him from being a director of a financial services company.
He later stood down as director, but remains the force behind the company and one of the leading three so-called “loan sharks” along with Hoogstraten and another controversial businessman, Jayesh Shah.
A prominent member of the ZAOGA Church, Buyanga has been spending a lot of time in Johannesburg where he frequents the 8 @ the Towers Restaurant in the lobby of the Michelangelo Towers.
He recently splashed on a pad at the neo-classical 35-storey high-rise Towers which stand 146m above street level — the tallest building on the Sandton skyline and the sixth tallest building in Johannesburg.
The 196-apartment Manhattan-style complex features intricate classical detail on the facade using bricks and a specialised external sandstone finish with extensive aluminium and glass sliding doors and windows, stainless steel handrails, glazed balustrades and marble granite and plaster cladding.
The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported in January that Buyanga had “links” with South African President Jacob Zuma and controversial African National Congress (ANC) bigwig, Fana Hlongwane, who has been subject of a police probe over allegations of arms dealing.
Buyanga, the paper reported, was part of Zuma’s entourage when the president toured Russia and China last year. He has been using these political links to spread his tentacles into South Africa on top of other opaque schemes he runs in Zambia and Malawi.
In Zambia, he is reportedly in partnership with Zimbabwean businessman Ian Haruperi, said to be a close associate of President Rupiah Banda. Haruperi joined Buyanga on Zuma’s entourage to Russia last August.
Haruperi’s Facebook page has several pictures of himself, Buyanga, Zuma and other members of his entourage in Moscow.
Several messages left for Buyanga were not returned. His lawyers insist that he does not face any criminal charges in Zimbabwe, and that his business activities are legitimate.
Buyanga, wanted by police in Zimbabwe on fraud charges, told South African television over the weekend that the allegations and purported charges against him were “hot air”, while also denying that he was on the run.
In Zimbabwe we have a classic case of biting the hand that feeds us. I made one huge mistake. Nick Van Hoogstraten advised me a few years ago never to give money to anyone desperate or that needed it and in my own ambitions I stormed the market handing out cash. To my sad discovery the same individuals and companies later sought for my persecution.
It is fortunate that the police force, being one of the best if not the best in Africa, realised that I had invested a great amount of money into the economy which none of these ‘so called complainants’ could ever pay me or the company I represented back.
It is their duty to protect the public and what the complainants conveniently ignored was the fact that the truth would sooner surface and they would be exposed. It is sad that tax payers suffer the costs of these illegitimate complaints.
The matter is still before the courts and is subjudice. However, the complainants misrepresented facts and with the aid of a Harare lawyer they forged affidavits. We have lodged a complaint with the Law Society of Zimbabwe against the lawyer. Strangely, the law society is yet to act on our complaint.”
Hamilton Finance is a money lending company which is licensed and operates under the supervision of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and in the confines of Zimbabwean law. These are two different companies which if you were to come to me seeking to buy or to sell your property I would refer you to Hamilton Property Holdings and if you were looking to borrow money I would refer you to Hamilton Finance.
He is a friend, mentor and advisor. As a matter of fact, he extended US$25 million to me for investing in the Zimbabwe market in 2008. In my stupidity, I invested in these troubled properties at a time he clearly pointed out to me that the world property market was on the brink of collapse. In my ambition to mop up, I got involved and finally got my fingers burnt.
To my surprise, even after technically losing well over US$10 million he told me that was back pocket change and I shouldn’t stress about it. I have decided to keep the US$15 million in London towards my pension.
Generally, Van Hoogstraten is misunderstood in the Zimbabwe market. He has for long been talking of pulling out but we have been able to convince him to stay a while longer. I have personally witnessed his walk and can say without a shadow of doubt that he has love for Zimbabwe and its people, he has great respect and speaks highly of our president and shares his vision of total empowerment.
He himself is the best form of empowerment I have experienced in the UK, Zimbabwe and other parts of the world.
Ngobeni claimed the syndicate would bring vehicles into South Africa through Durban harbour, take them to Zimbabwe for registration and then bring them back to the country.
In February, the North Gauteng High Court turned down Buyanga’s application to have the vehicle returned. The court relied on an affidavit signed by Ngobeni’s colleague, Nhlane Mashabela, stating that they couldn’t get hold of him.
Mashabela told the court that after the vehicle was impounded, Buyanga failed to give police the Rolls’ ownership papers.
He said Buyanga disappeared on Christmas Eve in 2010 and they couldn’t get close to him because he was under heavy guard before he left South Africa.
It is a claim Buyanga denies. “I met with Ngobeni about seven times during that period and he even took me to the police station to show me the vehicle,” he says. “It’s an absolute lie that I didn’t give them the papers.”
Video footage obtained by City Press shows Ngobeni driving around with Buyanga on several occasions before December 23 2010 in and around Sunnyside. In one of the videos, Buyanga is seen handing over a set of documents to Ngobeni and his superior at their offices.
In one of the videos Ngobeni can be heard asking Buyanga’s driver what type of person he is before taking him to see the Rolls at the police station.
When asked this week if they had misled the court about Buyanga’s failure to hand over documents, police failed to respond, but said they were conducting further investigations.
Meanwhile, police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said police had arrested and charged a suspect with corruption in relation to the vehicle, and he would appear in court on July 10.
The battle for his Rolls-Royce isn’t Buyanga’s only problem. He’s currently fighting an Interpol warrant of arrest issued at the behest of the Zimbabwean government.
Buyanga left Zimbabwe in 2010 and moved to South Africa following charges of fraud, forgery and money laundering. He has hired top Israeli lawyer Nick Kaufman, who has represented Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi in his extradition case from Niger, to fight the case.
Kaufman has been quoted as saying the warrant of arrest is political because Buyanga instituted legal action against a government minister in Zimbabwe.
Buyanga wrecks $230k Ferrari
ZIMBABWEAN property tycoon Frank Buyanga has cheated death after crashing his $230,000 Ferrari 458 Italia in Cape Town.
The millionaire playboy extensively damaged the front end of his expensive motor in wet weather after failing to negotiate Cape Town’s famous Hospital Bend shortly after 6AM on Thursday.
The 34-year-old Buyanga, reputed to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people with a personal fortune of over US$20 million, walked away from the wrecked red Ferrari unhurt.
On the same day that Buyanga trashed his motor, the Cape Argus newspaper said “unseasonably heavy rain began to fall, lifting several weeks’ worth of rubber, oil and diesel fuel out of the tar and leaving the city’s roads treacherously slick”.
Buyanga told NewZimbabwe.com by telephone from South Africa that he was “fine and resting”, refusing to go into detail about his unscheduled visit to the steel barriers.
England-born Buyanga made his millions selling properties in Europe and Africa, driven by his mentor – the controversial property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten.
Dubbed a “loan shark” by Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Buyanga exiled himself from Zimbabwe after powerful Zanu PF figures who owed his Hamilton Finance hundreds of thousands of dollars pressured police to arrest him on alleged fraud charges.
Buyanga – who counts South African President Jacob Zuma, former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi and Equatorial Guinea strongman Obiang Nguema among his friends – insists he is a legitimate businessman and is fighting the charges in court.
The loss of the Ferrari will hardly make a dent on Buyanga’s lifestyle. His garage includes nearly a dozen super cars including a Rolls Royce, a Bentley Continental, a BMW X5 and a Mercedes ML.
Hoogstraten gave me US$25 million: Frank Buyanga
HAMILTON boss Frank Buyanga has revealed that he received US$25 million from the controversial British property tycoon, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, in 2008.
Dubbed a “loan shark” by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Buyanga also launched a defiant defence of the business practices of three of his Zimbabwean companies – Hamilton Finance, Hamilton Property Holdings and Hamilton Insurance.
In a rare television interview for the Click Africa programme on DSTV’s Africa Magic channel aired Sunday, Buyanga spoke openly about:
# His extraordinary relationship with the British businessman Nicholas van Hoogstraten
# His legal troubles in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe
# How Hamilton Finance became the “lender of last resort” during the liquidity crisis between 2007 and 2009
# And his relationship with African leaders including Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang
Until Sunday’s interview, Buyanga had only previously said of Hoogstraten that he was his friend, mentor and advisor.
“He gave me money, US$25 million. One of my property companies received US$25 million as a facility, and out of that I think we used US$10 million and that’s it,” Buyanga told interviewer, Josey Mahachi.
In 2002, Van Hoogstraten – estimated to be worth US$800 million – was jailed in the UK for 10 years for ordering the murder of a business rival, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
Three years later, he was ordered to pay the victim’s family £6 million in a civil case but he vowed they would “never get a penny”.
Hoogstraten is believed to have donated money to President Robert Mugabe’s campaign in the past. Asked why he had not exploited such a political connection to end the police pursuit of him, Buyanga bristled with indignation.
“Why should he [Hoogstraten] speak to the President about my problems? I told you these problems are not from high-up, there are all these little Mickey Mouse people. The President has bigger issues to deal with. Besides, he is a senior citizen and should be left alone,” he said.
Controversial … British property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten now lives in Zimbabwe
Buyanga abruptly stepped down as a director of Hamilton Property Holdings in 2010 to avoid a gathering storm over the company’s activities which were attracting police and Reserve Bank attention.
Dozens of people came forward to say that they had borrowed money from Hamilton and surrendered collateral in the form of houses, vehicles and household goods. They claimed that before their borrowing period was over, Hamilton had disposed of their property.
But Buyanga said “none of these people have any money”, insisting if they did he would be happy to give them back their houses.
The Attorney General has filed an application in the High Court seeking to interdict Hamilton from selling 45 properties.
But the company is fighting the application, insisting that it has not sold or tried to sell the said properties.
Most of the petitioners had sold their properties, the company argues, but with a “buy-back option… subject to parties agreeing on a buy-back price and the terms of the buy-back.”
“Hamilton in all sale transactions has made available to all the complainants the following documents for the purpose of completing the sale transaction: agreement of sale, power of attorney to pass transfer, declaration by seller, notice to vacate property and acknowledgement of receipt of funds,” the company says in court papers.
But police are also charging Buyanga individually under laws that impose liability on directors where a company is involved in illegal activities.
“We all know that the police are not always concise, are not always precise. You cannot say that police are always right,” Buyanga said in the interview on Sunday.
“We have extended funding to more than 4,000 people but we are talking about 45 people who are using elements in the system and state organs to create something out of it. Nothing will come out of it,” he added.
When asked who was running his businesses in Zimbabwe in his absence, he replied that “these things run themselves”. His business interests extended beyond Zimbabwe, he emphasised.
Africa Magic showed interviews with some individuals who borrowed money from Hamilton and successfully paid back.
One man, who was unnamed, said: “There are people who did benefit, perhaps in their desire to do business they failed in various projects and they had challenges in repaying the money., The ended up finding excuses in terms of repaying the money.
“What I would have thought is that people who are accountable, people with integrity… the best thing would have been to go back to the drawing board and renegotiate the loans. It’s just unfortunate that some people who were really greedy thought the best way to move this agenda was to push Frank out of that industry, in the hope that those debts would be written off.”
Buyanga says he has no intentions of writing off the debt. “It’s about principle, not forgiveness.”
It has been reported that Buyanga’s troubles began when the brother of a senior cabinet minister’s girlfriend borrowed over US$50,000 using her sister’s house – with her permission – as collateral.
After his investment bombed, he committed suicide when realising that his sister’s property would be sold.
It has since emerged that Transport Minister Nicholas Goche also borrowed US$70,000 and had neglected to pay, forcing the company to take him to court.
Buyanga says he saw nothing wrong with giving loans to ministers, describing them as “just civil servants”.
“There is nothing wrong with extending funding to a government minister. In Zimbabwe, at the time I was extending funds, no-one else was. Even the banks didn’t have any money. So none of these people had anywhere to run, so they could only run to me,” he said.
He admitted that “a lot of people haven’t paid me back”.
He said he had friends who were ministers, but he did not expect them to stand up for him and fight what he sees as a miscarriage of justice.
“I would not want them to stand up for me,” Buyanga said. “The minute that minister lifts up his hand and mentions my name, then he is in trouble. They are gonna jump on him. You can’t have anyone standing up for me right now, can you? I understand that.”
Buyanga – charged with conspiracy to defraud in the United Kingdom before failing to make an appearance in court in 2005 – says he recorded all transactions on video because he had a premonition some clients would default and use corrupt police officers to intimidate him into writing off the debts.
Buyanga also spoke about his connections with African leaders including Muluzi and Obiang, whom he was photographed meeting in Equatorial Guinea.
On Muluzi, he said: “He is like a father figure. We have known each other for a while. My dad is late now and I need someone who can advise me on the way forward in life.”
He only knew President Obiang as a man who has “achieved a lot for his country”.
Buyanga recently received three awards from a South African organisation for assisting in “human development”.
He recently donated R1 million to a youth development programme in South Africa.
“It’s important to add value to the youth in terms of youth development programmes by way of education,” he said.
“I personally feel we can improve the situation, and move away from the situation of forfeiture of people’s assets by means that I don’t agree with. You can only develop the human being by financial literacy, by education.”