MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader Morgan Tsvangirai risks being chucked out of his Highlands home because of failure to service a US$3 million loan secured from government when he was still the Prime Minister of the Republic, the Financial Gazette heard. Tsvangirai received an amount to the tune of US$1,5 million in November of 2009 from the central bank which was meant to enable him to buy the property in the leafy suburb of Highlands. He got another US$1,5 million from Treasury under unclear circumstances, which he expended on renovations.
The Financial Gazette, however, has it on good authority that the ex-premier has been failing to make repayments on the loan, which could result in him being evicted from the house. This is the first public sign that personal finances may not be what they ought to be for a man of his stature. Although financial woes for the MDC-T, as a party, have become a matter of public record, it had been understood that personally, the former Prime Minister and his family were well-to-do.
Tsvangirai's spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, denied that his boss had defaulted on the loan. "There has been no default. That is street talk. Why are you even asking me about street talk? There is no truth to that," he said. The loan itself has been a subject of much controversy. After it was issued out by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for a house purchase by the former Prime Minister, the government, under the direction of the then finance minister, Tendai Biti, also advanced a similar amount to the MDC-T leader This resulted in suspicion and allegations of double-dipping on the part of the former trade unionist.
Since then, fraud allegations have been mooted against Tsvangirai. While presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, said he could not comment on the issue, he intimated that there was a police case involving the matter. "There is a police investigation on that matter," Charamba told the Financial Gazette and referred this paper to the police and the Prosecutor General for details.
Charamba, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, claimed yesterday that President Robert Mugabe had ordered the police to hold off investigations until after the July 31, 2013 elections. He said the ZANU-PF leader did not want the investigations which had been ongoing since 2011 to go on ahead of the elections and cast aspersions that the MDC-T leader was being persecuted in the face of the polls.
"The President directed the police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri, to wait until after the elections. The President did not want anyone to allege that Tsvangirai was being persecuted ahead of the elections," Charamba told the Financial Gazette.
"It is a police case and had only stopped because the President ordered the case to be stopped until after the elections," he added. Police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, however, denied any knowledge of the issue yesterday while, Prosecutor General, Johannes Tomana, said the matter had not reached his office. "If there is anything criminal in the matter, then it would be with the police. My office has not yet received anything on the matter," Tomana said.
Tamborinyoka denied there was anything criminal about the matter saying Tsvangirai used the amount for the renovation of the house. Financial problems are only one of the myriad of challenges that have befallen the MDC-T leader in recent months. Following his loss to ZANU-PF at the polls in July last year, Tsvangirai's fortunes have been waning non-stop.
Following hard on the heels of the humiliating defeat were marital woes where his wife of hardly two years, Elizabeth Macheka, left him in circumstances, which she was quoted to say, involved a medical issue. Although after some discussions and interventions by family members, the two were said to have reconciled, the rumour mill continued to spew out nuggets to the effect that harmony still evaded the two though distance between them had, for the most part, been closed.
End of January this year brought with it a whole new dimension of troubles when a trusted lieutenant, deputy treasurer general, Elton Mangoma, wrote to Tsvangirai, urging him to step down. Reactions to Mangoma's missive by Tsvangirai and his backers have since snowballed into a permanent rift in the party, which has resulted in two distinct split groups: one in favour of maintaining the status quo and another spoiling for leadership renewal.
But what could have hurt the MDC-T leader the most in the schism, is the apparent "betrayal" by trusted close adviser, party secretary general, Tendai Biti, in a manner reminiscent of Brutus turning against Caesar in the famous Shakespearean play. Biti emerged from the proverbial closet at a meeting held at Mandel on April 26 to align with the so-called renewal "rebels" and cast the dagger at his boss and colleague Tsvangirai by suspending him from the party he founded.
And sure enough, last Sunday the former premier's health gave in, in a development that has seen him seeking medical attention. Doctors have since advised rest, seeing how his continued working, under trying circumstances, is taking a toll on him. Because of the compromised health and subsequent doctor's orders, Tsvangirai missed a much billed national Africa Day rally at the weekend which was held at the Zimbabwe grounds in Highfield.