Uncle Bob lends a hand

Over two decades in office Mugabe has diverted plum political jobs and state-funded contracts to a network of clan members.

The best-known beneficiaries are the president's favourite sister, Sabina Mugabe, and her children. Since 1985 Sabina has been MP for the Mugabe family's home area of Zvimba, about 80 kilometres north-west of Harare. She is also secretary for finance in the ruling Zanu-PF party's influential Women's League.

Her eldest son, Innocent, was director of the state's feared Central Intelligence Organisation until his death in June. Her second son, Leo, is owner and chief executive of a construction and telecommunications consortium, Integrated Engineering Group. IEG has been awarded contracts running into billions of dollars to construct public buildings, often ahead of far more experienced companies. Its biggest coup came in 1996 when it won the contract to build the new Harare International Airport terminal, in association with the Cyprus-based Air Harbour Technologies. The company's tender was fourth behind bids from established companies. Leo's other interests include Joy Television and chairmanship of the Zimbabwe Football Association. Leo's brother, Patrick Zhuwawo, the only one among Sabina's children who does not use the Mugabe name, manages IEG businesses.

The Ushewokunze family is related to Mugabe through his mother, Bona, who was a strong influence on him. Mugabe appointed two Ushewokunze uncles, Herbert and Christopher, now both dead, as ministers in his Zanu-PF government. Herbert, a medical doctor, was one of the few relatives who could claim to have risen on merit. He clashed with Mugabe in government, but though demoted several times, was never really dropped.

The Chikerema family is also related to Mugabe through his mother. James Dambaza Chikerema was appointed to the Constitutional Commission, whose work was rejected in a referendum last year. Charles' brother, James, edited the government-run Sunday Mail, and was in charge of its daily stablemate, the Daily Herald. In 1997, Simba Makoni, the current finance minister, who was then chief executive of Zimpapers Ltd, tried to sack James and instead was fired himself on Mugabe's instructions.

The relationship with the Mushayakarara family dates to earlier generations. In accordance with African custom, Mugabe regards the current Mushayakararas as his nephews and nieces. Elisha, a former permanent secretary in the ministry of finance and economic planning, is now the chief executive of the state financial services group Financial Holdings (Finhold). The group owns Zimbabwe's fourth largest bank, the Zimbabwe Banking Corporation. His sister, Lupi, is an occasional critic of the Mugabe government. In 1999 she quit the National Constitutional Assembly, a coalition of civic bodies campaigning for a new and democratic constitution, after Mugabe gave her a job on his Constitutional Commission.

Brothers John and Hosea Mapondera and their sister Esnath have also enjoyed the fruits of family relationships. Hosea is a former director-general of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, and John and Esnath sit on the boards of various government-owned companies.

A scion of the Chiyangwa family, which belongs to Mugabe's Gushungo clan, is Philip Chiyangwa, a former member of Ian Smith's Rhodesian army and now the self-styled champion of black economic empowerment. Chiyangwa, who has direct access to Mugabe, has lucrative business interests in Zimbabwe and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is also Zanu-PF chairman in Mashonaland West, Mugabe's home province.