Robert Mugabe's relative and staff accused of stealing suitcase of cash to buy 'cars, homes and animals'

Three people including a relative of Robert Mugabe have appeared in court charged with stealing a suitcase containing $150,000 (£117,000) in cash from the former Zimbabwean president.

The suspected thieves are alleged to have spent the money on a house, cars and livestock including pigs and cattle.

Constancia Mugabe, 50, a relative of the deposed leader, is among the accused.

She is alleged to have given keys to Mr Mugabe’s house in rural Zvimba district to co-conspirators Johanne Mapurisa, 50, and Saymore Nhetekwa, 47, giving them access to the case.

The theft occurred sometime after 1 December, Chinhoyi magistrates heard.

State prosecutor Teveraishe Zinyemba told the court that Ms Mapurisa, a cleaner for Mr Mugabe, bought a Toyota Camry car and a house for $20,000 (£16,000).

Mr Nhetekwa, also a cleaner, spent his share of the cash on a Honda vehicle, pigs and cattle.

The three defendants were bailed to return on 24 January. Police are hunting a fourth suspect.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, the chief prosecution witness in the case is a manager at a charity run by Grace Mugabe, the former president’s wife.

Mr Mugabe, now 94, was forced out of office by Zimbabwe’s military in 2017.

During his 37-year reign, he enjoyed a lavish lifestyle while presiding over an economic crisis.

He has suffered from ill health since being deposed and has spent several months in Singapore for treatment.

It is unclear if he was at home during the theft.