August 6, 2011

Tsvangirai in ‘double payment’ probe

Zimababwe MDC Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is being investigated by the Harare police regarding money he was given by the government to buy an official residence. After the unity government was formed in February 2009, President Robert Mugabe refused to allow Tsvangirai to live in either of two vacant official residences, including one he occupied when he became prime minister of Zimbabwe at independence. Both remain empty.
Mugabe moved into his plush privately-owned mansion six years ago. Later in 2009 Tsvangirai insisted on an official residence, as his own house, bought for him with MDC or donor money after the party was formed in 1999, was small and inappropriate for his duties as prime minister.

According to Zimbabwe’s Independent Newspaper, Tsvangirai was then given R10.3 million by the government to pay for a suitable house and any renovations or additions. A double-storey house with a view was bought in posh Kew Drive, Highlands, from a former transport operator and MDC donor who is now living in South Africa. Extensive building has been going on at the property for months and additions and changes are being made, not least for security. The price Tsvangirai paid for the property has not been disclosed, but it would have been less than R5.16m in the market conditions at the time.

According to The Independent, the alleged offence being investigated is whether Tsvangirai was paid for the house twice: by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, under the control of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, and the Treasury, which falls under his MDC colleague Finance Minister Tendai Biti. The newspaper alleges the money was transferred from one bank to another by one of Tsvangirai’s close relatives, Hebson Makuvise, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Germany, who allegedly used R964 000 of it to buy a residential stand. Makuvise allegedly made several withdrawals from the account containing the R10.5m meant for Tsvangirai’s house, according to The Independent. Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka told The Independent: “The prime minister remains unshaken about these allegations. “If the police are investigating the case we wish them good luck!” (Independent Online)

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