By Patrice Makova
HARARE- The scandal surrounding the alleged misappropriation of US$1,5 million meant for the purchase of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s official residency has taken a new twist with information emerging that the money was a loan which the premier is supposed to repay.
Documents in possession of The Standard show that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) suggested that the loan be dealt in one or two ways. The first option was for the loan to be taken over as part of government debt by the Ministry of Finance while the second option was for the loan to be repaid directly by Tsvangirai himself as the beneficiary of the house.
Authoritative sources said Tsvangirai opted for the second option, meaning that he would have to find the money to repay the loan with interest and all other relevant charges. Although Tsvangirai preferred to have the property registered in his name, the RBZ wanted it to remain a government house until the loan had been fully repaid.
The Prime Minister was accused of engaging in “double dipping” after getting the US$1,5 million from the RBZ and an additional US$1 million from treasury to buy and renovate the same property at 49 Kew Drive in Highlands, Harare. Tsvangirai however, scoffed at the allegations on Friday.
“There is no case there. At the right moment, the people concerned will comment on the matter. Right now you may continue on the wild goose chase,” said the PM.
Information obtained by The Standard shows that Police Commissioner-General, Augustine Chihuri, wrote to RBZ Governor, Gideon Gono, on July 20 2011, seeking to know the involvement of Finance minister, Tendai Biti, in the release of the US$1,5 million. But the RBZ chief is said to have told Chihuri that Biti was not aware of the release of the funds.
Tsvangirai, using his close relative and Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Germany, Hebson Makuvise, is accused of diverting part of the US$1,5 million to buy properties in Chishawasha hills and to invest on the money market. But Tsvangirai’s close associates insisted Tsvangirai was free to use the money whichever way he wanted as long as the loan was repaid.
“How many people secure loans from banks to do certain projects, but use part of the funds for other purposes?” asked one close confidant of Tsvangirai. It is also not unusual for an individual to secure a loan from two banks to do the same project. As long as one repays the loan, there is nothing amiss.”
The source claimed that a large chunk of the money Tsvangirai got from the RBZ as a housing loan was still in a trust account.
‘Security chefs want PM nabbed for fraud’
Members of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), mostly security chiefs, are said to be pushing for the arrest of Tsvangirai on allegations of fraud. Mugabe last week however, said the police should not rush to take any action before doing thorough investigations.
Tsvangirai was not the only one to benefit from the housing loan. A report prepared by the Ministry of Finance shows that Vice-President John Nkomo and the two deputy prime ministers, Thokozani Khupe and Professor Arthur Mutambara also benefited. Zimbabwe Standard
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