The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) group was recently rocked by infighting and the emergence of two factions, each claiming to have fired the other for a variety of allegations. Question Time hosted Part 1 of a debate between the two rival chairpersons, Ephraim Tapa and Grace Mupfurutsa. SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma seeks to find out who is in charge and what created the acrimony?
Interview broadcast 10 August 2011
Lance Guma: The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe group was recently rocked by infighting and the emergence of two factions, each claiming to have fired the other for a variety of allegations. Today on Question Time we have the rescheduled debate between the two rival chairpersons, Ephraim Tapa and Grace Mupfurutsa. Both were extended invitations and agreed to the debate and I am happy to report that they join me on the line. Good evening to both of you.
Ephraim Tapa: Good evening.
Grace Mupfurutsa: Good evening.
Guma: Okay to get the ball rolling, who formed ROHR? I’ll start with you Mr. Tapa.
Tapa: I did; it’s my brainchild. I remember it coming as a result of the experiences that I had whilst in Zimbabwe when I was abducted and spent 23 days in a torture camp and then after being rescued I then decided that I need to do something about the victims; people who continued to languish and be tortured in torture bases.
So I had scheduled this to start in 2003 but because of other commitments I then had to think again and then reschedule it to start in 2007. Then I did invite others; I realised I couldn’t do it on my own and of course, the first to be invited as had been already on stand-by was Mr Ray Muzenda and then of course I went on to invite the likes of Justin Shaw-Gray the likes of Grace Mupfurutsa and I think Julius Mutyambizi and then Stendrick Zvorwadza and others.
So we came together and then I gave them my plan, my programme, Zvorwadza opted to go and join others in Zimbabwe to get the programme going. So this is how it all started.
Guma: Okay let me just get Grace’s response to that – so you would agree Tapa formed the organisation Grace?
Mupfurutsa: The organisation was formed by ten like-minded individuals who had pre-existing ideas about how to work on the issues of restoring human rights in Zimbabwe. What is true is the fact that Mr Tapa took the central position in coordinating these views.
However the truth of the matter is that on our legal document, which is the founding document registered in Zimbabwe which is Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR) Notorial Deed of Donation and Trust, the founder trustee is Stendrick Zvorwadza.
There were ten of us Mr Zvorwadza being the founder and trustee; Mr Tichanzi Gandanga also being a founder; Mr Ephraim Tapa also being a founder; Mr Ray Muzenda, Mr Justin Shaw-Gray, Mr Julius Mutyambizi Dewa, myself Grace Sinikiwe Mupfurutsa, Edgar Shingai Chikuvire and Kelvin Tafadzwa Karimanzira and lastly but not least, Mr Ronald Murevererwi. So we were all within the scope of being founders in 2007, the month of August on the 30th.
Guma: Okay let’s now explain to our listeners when the problems began. We are told, I think it’s in July, there was an extraordinary board meeting where we are told from the statement that you issued Grace or at least your camp issued, this meeting was attended by five out of the total eight board members and a decision was made to expel Mr Tapa, Mr Tichanzi Gandanga and Mr Ray Muzenda. So I’ll start with you Grace to explain your decision and get a reaction from Mr Tapa later.
Mupfurutsa: Okay, thank you for the opportunity to address this particular issue. We scheduled a board meeting on the 7th and the 8th of July 2011; this was at the request of a number of board members and the request was put through the appropriate organisational route which was the president, as his title was, Mr Tapa and also Mr Gandanga who was the secretary general which is the equivalent of the secretary.
So we were due to have a board meeting anyway around this time but there were a number of significant issues which prompted the request for an extraordinary meeting and this was done in the middle of June, I think the 14th or the 15th and all the communication is via email. It had gone into the public domain that there’s an organisation called Yes We can which had been formed and there was speculation that it was a political party and as you know, ROHR Zimbabwe is not a political party.
It is an apolitical organisation which is non-governmental and we wanted Mr Tapa to address the rest of the board and also inform us about the way forward, if he was indeed going into politics. We wanted to give him an opportunity to present his case and also to have a strategic direction about his exit. We had not had any handover from Mr Tapa about the organisation formation, what nature it would be so that was the prompting event which led to the request for the board meeting.
There was a scheduled board meeting anyway which was coming up around this time and then there were a number of events which then took place, for example Mr Gandanga was arrested in Harare Zimbabwe on charges of theft and the case is still pending, the courts there are issues that a significant amount of money was utilized by Mr Gandanga for his personal use which belonged to one of our partner organisations called Victim Action Committee.
And so that also then made the necessity for this meeting even more imperative and then thereafter, the decisions that were taken by Mr Tapa of suspending Mr Gandanga were constitutional and the rest of the board agreed with them. However he unilaterally appointed one of the administrators, project administrators against the wishes of the other board members because the position of secretary general or the overseer within the whole of Zimbabwe’s ROHR needed to have somebody at least in the board who would look after that position especially as we were in a crisis.
Guma: Okay, let me stop you there and just get Mr Tapa to react. Mr Tapa I spoke to you in July; in that interview you told us only four members of the board met and therefore did not constitute a quorum. Would you like to react to what Grace has just said?
Tapa: Thank you very much for that. The meetings of ROHR Zimbabwe must be properly constituted for them to be recognized for their results to also hold force. The chair according to the trust deed, the chairperson of the board is the one who fixes a date for a meeting and through the secretary, a meeting is called. We are not aware of the meeting that Grace Mupfurutsa and three others, who called for that meeting, using what constitution, or using what document, all that kind of stuff.
Of course the only meeting that was called for, firstly as a tentative, I mean the only date that was given as tentative was the 7th and 8th of July which we then confirmed because it allows the consultation process to happen within the board members as to their availability and 21st, 22nd July was then agreed as the board meeting. So after that, but maybe before we come to that, we have an issue here.
Grace Mupfurutsa, I did offer her to join the board of trustees in 2007; she failed to take up her position at the first board meeting where each and every one of the board members was to be confirmed as a board member of ROHR Zimbabwe. So that was the first item on the agenda – confirmation of board members and I can also confirm that Kelvin Karimanzira at that confirmation process, I mean through that confirmation process, Kelvin Karimanzira failed to make it because of a criminal record or something like that.
And it was for Grace Mupfurutsa also to submit herself to that process for her then to be recognized as a board member. So as we speak today, Grace Mupfurutsa has never, despite her acceptance of membership to the board, has never been a board member, has never operated at board level, she doesn’t know what she is talking about and that is why, when she says ROHR Zimbabwe was formed by certain people out there and blah blah, where is that on record?
If we go out there, we’ve got minutes, 2000 minutes, board meeting minutes which clearly specifies or elucidates on the history of RORH Zimbabwe, how it came about, which specifically states that RORH Zimbabwe is a victim-orientated organisation which was formed by victims. Grace Mupfurutsa is not a victim of Mugabe’s government, I mean torture bases and all that, neither is Zvorwadza, neither is Edgar Chikuvire and Ronald (Murevererwi). They are not victims.
Guma: But you offered her to be part of the board.
Tapa: I offered her because I thought she could have input but then she failed to take up the position.
Guma: Okay let’s get her reaction – Grace?
Mupfurutsa: Well I’ll just start off by clarifying that I do have difficulty with the viewpoints that Mr Tapa is putting forward because they are untrue. My contribution within ROHR is very, very significant. The amount of money which was ceded in order for the notorial deed of trust to be registered and for the solicitors to be paid was £350 which I put in out of my own money and I gave that to Mr Zvorwadza because we did not have money then.
The first amount of money that was deposited in the RORH bank account was money that came about because I cooked food in my house and I did another thing of meals that I would cook and we would sell at the Zimbabwe House to nourish people rather than them going to MacDonald’s or the other fast foods restaurants there. We raised £312 or £315, it’s the first deposit in the ROHR account.
When you see the logos of ROHR, the branding process, the t-shirts, the high visibility, those are my designs in consultation with other members within ROHR Zimbabwe. Now coming to the question of why I did not attend the board, Mr Tapa has been orchestrating a very intelligent and very unhelpful dictatorship within RORH over the years and unfortunately he has been fooling some of the people some of the time but he cannot fool all the people all the time.
He did not avail resources that would have enabled me to have a ticket paid for at that time for me to travel; the dates were not circulated in time for me, in order for me to take time off work, and also I’m a single parent, I was raising my young child on my own, he was seven then, I would need as a woman, to make sure that there was someone to look after my child whilst I was away in South Africa.
When I asked Mr Tapa what would be the accommodation arrangements, the answer that he gave me was insulting and also was not in line with my own ethical views so I forwent the first board meeting. My apologies were passed and that was minuted. The two middle board meetings that took place, before this fourth one, Mr Tapa and Mr Gandanga did not circulate those to me so they excluded me and this is the mischief that has been happening within ROHR Zimbabwe.
When these meetings were taking place and I forwarded my apologies through other members and the minutes document that I apologized so when you apologise for any meeting you have in effect attended. And just to clarify one other point, in Zimbabwe, there were four board members who attended, there’s a fifth, Mr Justin Shaw-Gray who passed his apologies by email and also presented the issues that he wanted to be addressed within the board meeting that met on the 7th and 8th in Harare Zimbabwe of July this year.
So there were in effect, five members at that board meeting and it was a constitutional quorum. Mr Tapa, Mr Gandanga, Mr Muzenda did not attend. What has now transpired that they were trying to shift the dates to the 21st and 22rd of July because Mr Tapa had a another meeting in South Africa which included Yes We Can so he was trying to use the resources of ROHR to his own advantage which was not right and which was not fair.
When the board meeting was constituted, I actually took time off work, I have my leave forms which show that I actually got my leave signed off so that I could attend that meeting and I also had to foot all the bills because Mr Tapa tried to make it impossible for people to attend and that’s the reason why we changed the venue from South Africa to Zimbabwe because in the current political climate and economic climate we don’t have a lot of resources.
So the venue was moved to Zimbabwe to make it more affordable and also to ensure that we did not continue to meet in South Africa because Mr Tapa was the only reason for his own immigration status that we were continuing to meet in South Africa, so it’s no longer relevant because Zimbabwe now has a government of national unity and we didn’t feel that the risks were as they would have been a year, or a couple of years before.
Guma: Okay, let’s put that to the side, we’ll get to that when we discuss the Yes We Can campaign. Coming to you Mr Tapa, in July, when this whole thing broke out, it was reported that, well the presentation was that the ROHR board had sacked you following accusations that £26000 was remitted to your personal account on various dates but never forwarded to Zimbabwe which was the intended destination. Can we get your reaction to these accusations and maybe get an explanation from you how ROHR funds are administered and by whom?
Tapa: You see this is why I was a little bit apprehensive about having a discussion with somebody who is completely oblivious of the facts within ROHR, the procedures within ROHR and all the happenings that have happened since the inception of ROHR Zimbabwe. I’m not even aware how and when Grace gave money to Zvorwadza who is expected to be a deputy of myself without even my own knowledge.
I’m not even aware when Grace raised money for RORH Zimbabwe selling sadza. The only thing that I know of course was that we gave her money, £320 to provide food at the Vigil; she arrived with the food very late when we were closing the Vigil and then it was just distributed away. All this nonsense about someone having done the logos everything, that’s ridiculous, really ridiculous claims. This never happened.
Guma: Okay let’s get to the money.
Tapa: Getting to the money issue, this never happened as you heard from herself. The idea was then to, once they heard that there was a Yes campaign movement that was in the offing, they went to Zimbabwe and claimed that Ephraim Tapa had formed a political party and I understand from those in the ROHR office in Zimbabwe, that Zvorwadza then went to the prime minister so he claims, I cannot say that for sure that he went to the prime minister’s office where he was instructed to get rid of Tapa because if he’s allowed to go on with the movement and at the same time he’s got his, at the helm of ROHR Zimbabwe then it means that he will be all too powerful to contain.
Guma: But so far you haven’t answered the question, sorry to interrupt you Mr Tapa but the accusation is that you, £26 000 was remitted to your personal account on various dates but never forwarded to Zimbabwe, so I’m saying…
Tapa: Let me say to you, the process that we use in Zimbabwe, I mean in ROHR Zimbabwe when remitting funds is such that it includes the Harare office, the accountant here who is Rose Benton and myself. So it is a threesome that are involved in the transmission of funds to Zimbabwe. What I can now say upon receipt of a request from Zimbabwe, I will forward that to Rose Benton.
Rose Benton produces the money; she can either send it direct to Zimbabwe, if she can’t she asks me, she can ask me or Paradzai Mapfumo to send the money instead. When money gets transferred into my account, all what I have to do is to go send the money through a money gram; I’ve got all those money gram references in my file right now.
Not only that, I also have confirmations of receipt from the Harare office and that is why I wanted you to be able to avail Harare office the opportunity to confirm on their own what this is all about. What is the evidence? We have had two audits so far; one internal and the other one external. There has not been any irregularities that were found and I haven’t seen, since the accusations, I have not seen any evidence to the effect that money was actually laundered.
Guma: Well unfortunately, because of time constraints we will have to end the first part of this debate between Ephraim Tapa and Grace Mupfurutsa from the two rival factions of the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe, but join me next week for Part two where we ask the question if Mr Tapa indeed embezzled money or converted money to his own use, why hasn’t the matter been reported to the police? So join me next week on Question Time.
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