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Part 2 of ROHR debate on Question Time

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. This is Part 2 of the 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?

Ephraim Tapa vs Grace Mupfurutsa
Ephraim Tapa vs Grace Mupfurutsa

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 over a variety of allegations. We managed to get the two chairpersons of the rival groups, Ephraim Tapa and Grace Mupfurutsa last week on part one of the debate. This week its part two and we start off by asking Grace Mupfurutsa if allegations that Mr Tapa diverted money from the organisation for his own use are true, why hasn’t the matter been reported to the police?

Grace Mupfurutsa: Okay, if you just allow me a few minutes to give you a bit of background so you know exactly where we are, when we concluded the board meeting in Harare and appointments were made, we then sought to clarify the position of the organisation at the Registrar and this is where all the private companies and all NGOs register, and what we found was an irregularity that ROHR was wiped off the files completely and we were very concerned and this was criminal in nature but also of much concern because the organisation was operating but there was no paper trail that ROHR Zimbabwe existed.

So I actually extended my stay there so we could put those things right and we also needed to ensure that the named board members are the ones that remain on the Notorial Deed of Trust because when we engage in grant applications and when we get sued, the board members are liable therefore we needed to just ensure that all the documents were updated.

So the situation had been that since I returned to the United Kingdom from Zimbabwe, we made sure that legally, the five board members that remain on record are the five board members that are with the Registrar’s Office in Zimbabwe and the reinstatement of ROHR as an organisation was done using the very effective legal systems in Zimbabwe.

That was the one issue. So we ensured that the legitimacy of the organisation was restored so that happened. What it would have meant if we didn’t do that was that ROHR would have been operating as a ghost organisation with no accountability and no legal processes that are in place as would be any other charity or NGO. Then when I came back, my assignment was to address the national executive in the United Kingdom and also to address Mr Tapa and Mrs. Rose Benton.

I addressed the national executive in Newcastle the weekend of the, I think it was the 2nd of August, the first Saturday in August I did that, and what we didn’t want to do was to sensationalise what was going on for ROHR Zimbabwe because there are a lot of people that are in very difficult situations that actually contribute in terms of finance to make ROHR happen and to be a success.

This really is not about personalities; ROHR is an organisation that is registered within Zimbabwe and has the leadership of succession so nobody can claim that ROHR belongs to them personally because it is an organisation which has…

Ephraim Tapa: I think she has answered the questions, so can I come in?

Guma: No, no, no, sorry Grace are you getting to the part why you, because the question is have you reported the matter to the police?

Mupfurutsa: Yes, the police matter is being dealt with through the bank fraud office…

Tapa: Okay right…

Mupfurutsa: …That is, the account for ROHR registered with Barclays and Barclay’s fraud office are processing with those particular issues. We’ve also got outstanding issues of other assets that Mr Tapa and Mrs. Rose Benton are refusing to hand over such as the web site which is now being used for Yes We Can and other issues Mr Tapa is using after the 7th of July which is unconstitutional and illegal.

Tapa: Thank you very much. Can I come in now?

Guma: Yes Mr Tapa.

Tapa: The issue she keeps on bringing in, the issue of Yes We Can, it is a non-starter, it’s not relevant here. She talks about the registration of the organisation, the organisation is properly registered and I can confirm that Last Maengahama who is a renowned human rights lawyer is the one who registered the organisation on our behalf and Last Maengahama is also the patron; we have appointed him the patron of…

Guma: Sorry, Mr Maengahama registered which organisation?

Tapa: ROHR Zimbabwe.

Guma: Okay.

Tapa: Right from the inception, the constitution, the deeds, everything he did for us and he went onto register that organisation. Mr Last Maengahama is actually our patron as we speak. He has been involved in fund raising activities, he has been involved in most of our activities and even providing us advice on how to handle these people who are claiming to have taken over ROHR Zimbabwe.

So I wouldn’t think a renowned lawyer like Last Maengahama would be involved in a bogus organisation. What I know and what I’m made to understand is that the government of Zimbabwe had wanted to control non-governmental organisations by way of having them to register for control purposes, and what then happened was that I understand they went there to register the organisation for that purpose but we said we will not register to be controlled or to be given parameters or frameworks within which to, so we are registered with the deeds office in Zimbabwe and Mr Maengahama is right at the centre of all this.

So we then come on to the executive meeting that was addressed here in the UK, this was done when I was in South Africa. I had not gone to South Africa for a Yes We Can campaign business because Yes We Can campaign business, I mean the Yes We Can is not yet a constituted organisation as yet. It’s still an idea, it’s not even formed so there was no way I could go there and have a meeting for Yes We Can, but we said, for logistical reasons and for reasons that are to do with the background of the people, the genuine activists involved in ROHR Zimbabwe who are the victims, we have held our board meetings in South Africa always…

Guma: Can I throw in this question Mr Tapa? You may as well answer it at the same time – a statement issued by Grace Mupfurutsa and her colleagues says the board of trustees is also demanding eight thousand pounds from Mr Tapa which it says he got for educational expenses unconstitutionally without their approval. Could you respond to that because a lot of listeners are sending in this question, wanting to get an answer from you?

Tapa: I’ve got an email, thank you very much for that, I’ve got an email here which is written by Mr Zvorwadza to Mr Justin Shaw-Gray which reads like – you haven’t responded to my last email; we need Mr Tapa to undertake this programme because we feel it can be helpful in networking and Mr Tapa has already, thank God Mr Tapa has already secured a place at the university so please let’s give him all the support that he needs. As for me I have already said yes to Rose (Benton) to release the funds. And then Justin’s response is – and says, agreed. And…

Guma: So a struggling human rights group that you say didn’t have funding, authorized eight thousand pounds for educational expenses?

Tapa: Let me also add that this matter then is addressed at the 2009 board meeting where it is fully written in the minutes, it’s captured in the minutes and all that so, development, professional development for our front line activists is a policy of ROHR Zimbabwe.

Guma: Eight thousand pounds is a lot of money though.

Tapa: It’s not even eight thousand.

Mupfurutsa: Can I come into this and just make a comment?

Guma: Okay.

Mupfurutsa: I have a lot of concerns regarding hearsay and one of the principal things that we did when we were in Harare was to make sure that the operations of ROHR align themselves directly with the mandate that is set out in the Notorial Deed of Trust and for the record, it’s Mr Muchadehama, Mr Tapa…

Tapa: Oh yes, sorry, sorry, sorry, thank you very much for that.

Mupfurutsa: I visited him at his home in Borrowdale and I also visited his offices in Harare when we were discussing these issues and he was not ready to take up the position of patron because of the conflict of interest and the issues that were currently clouding the organisation, so as far as we were concerned when we finished the board meeting in Zimbabwe, we agreed in principal that ROHR needs a patron.

We would have liked Mr Muchadehama, Alec Muchadehama to be the one but we wanted to ensure that the transition was managed properly before we could approach him or any other suitable individual. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is, when we look at the financial statements of ROHR Zimbabwe which I have in my computer and I have been sharing them with all the national executive, you (Tapa) are the sole beneficiary of most of the resources and I take issue with this because a lot of asylum seekers, even myself, yes I’m not a victim of Robert Mugabe’s government at any point, however I am in Diaspora, I have been working on issues concerning Zimbabwe from very long ago.

I came into this country in 1991 and I used to meet you at the Forum, I used to meet you at the Vigil and there were so many other meetings that were happening concerning Zimbabwe in which I was involved. I have never been an asylum seeker but I am passionate about Zimbabwe’s affairs. That qualifies me to be a member of ROHR, it qualifies me to be a board member so when money is misappropriated that is coming from people’s hard earned pockets, I take real personal issue with this and that is the reason why I sacrificed my own resources to ensure that I was at the last board meeting.

I did not ask to be the chairperson of ROHR Zimbabwe, I was elected to be the chairperson. My contribution within ROHR Zimbabwe stands as of today and ongoing and what I want to stress here is this – that ROHR Zimbabwe is not your baby, it is not your organisation.

It is an organisation that belongs to all the members and it is supported by other people who are international and they make donations; some people give pledges, some people give membership in the form of ten pounds every month. That money is supposed to be funding our overheads in Zimbabwe and programmes in Zimbabwe. It is not for the benefit of any single individual.

Tapa: Thank you very much. Can I say before you go any further, maybe I may forget, the money that was authorized, the money that was authorized by Stendrick and the board for me to undertake these studies was not coming from the membership, it was coming from a donor…

Mupfurutsa: We know that, it was still a donation…

Guma: Okay let’s just give each other a chance to talk. Mr Tapa is talking at the moment, just finish your point Mr Tapa.

Tapa: Yah, what I was saying is, I think what is happening now is Grace is trying to twist matters and stuff to her advantage which doesn’t work here. The thing here is the professional development programme we have had to send people to undertake professional development programmes and it is still policy of ROHR Zimbabwe. That’s one.

Number two she says she has looked at the statements and I’m the beneficiary of those monies. I’m saying to her now, I’ve got all the documentation which accrued as a result of the transmission that I was making to Zimbabwe so all those monies went to their intended destination. There was not even a penny missing, if anything if I were to show you some of the statements that I have here, the vouchers and stuff, I was even making additional, putting additional funds on top of the ones that I will be given by Rose.

Reason being that the organisation had no money and because I had stuff that had to be paid. Can you imagine – I crisscrossed the whole of the UK trying to bring people into this organisation, trying to grow the organisation, mostly at my own expense and then someone then says, from nowhere she comes in and says I am now the leader of ROHR Zimbabwe, which was built how, by who and all that kind of stuff.

Guma: Well to be fair Mr Tapa if I may interrupt you, we did explain as the programme was going along that there was an extraordinary board meeting, but the question that people want to understand – any organisation, and I’m sure our listeners as they are listening in have this question also, any organisation will have problems and I’ll throw this question to Grace – was it impossible to resolve this matter internally before people went to the press and started firing each other?

Tapa: They went

Guma: No, no, let Grace answer the question Mr Tapa.

Tapa: Okay.

Mupfurutsa:  That was the desired outcome and in fact when we progressed with the board meeting for the 7th and the 8th there was a recognition that there were forces at play to try and disrupt the convening of that particular meeting and it’s very difficult to challenge the person who is in leadership who is the one who is doing wrong.

So we had the secretary doing wrong, we had the president or the chairperson doing wrong and they were taking action to stifle the convening of a constitutionally called board meeting. When we went to Zimbabwe we wanted everybody to just have a good discussion, to understand where Mr Tapa was.

We are very happy for him in his ambitions and we wanted to support him. What we didn’t want to do was to compromise the integrity of the organisation, as I have said it is a membership-based organisation and the sole beneficiaries are those that are resident in Zimbabwe because of the hardship that they have endured over the past years.

So when Mr Tapa did not attend, Mr Gandanga did not attend, Mr Muzenda did not attend it meant that we would not be held at ransom by individuals because ROHR continues as an organisation irrespective of personalities. When we finished the board meeting, we wrote letters to each of those individuals, we also wrote to Mrs. (Rose) Benton and also put in a provision in there for us to have a discussion.

Those never materialized because of the obstructive nature in which Mr Tapa operates and the others. I met Mr Gandanga at the Peace Rally in Masvingo, at Macheke Stadium on the 10th of July, I shook hands with him, I introduced myself and we had a conversation so if I could do that with Mr Gandanga I don’t understand how that could fail when I return to the United Kingdom and I was seeking the same with Rose and seeking the same with Ephraim.

Guma: Okay so let’s throw this same question to Mr Tapa. Mr Tapa, like I said, any organisation will have problems, why was it difficult to resolve this internally?

Tapa: Right, to start with their, the so-called extraordinary board meeting – I don’t have a notice of an extra-ordinary board meeting; I don’t have their venue; I don’t have their time; I don’t have nothing. It’s not properly constituted so but we gave them the properly constituted dates for the board meeting in South Africa. They did not attend.

We continued to invite them to come even after they had had their clandestine meeting, they still did not attend so our view was then that they had formed by doing what they did, they had formed themselves into a different organisation and I now hear that they are busy trying to form or they have already founded a web site, they are busy trying to recruit members and all that kind of stuff and we wish them all the best but then, the thing is, there are procedures that people, I mean procedures in place for people to come into leadership and go, you don’t just gatecrash.

We have it on account that Zvorwadza claimed to be acting on the, as a conduit pipe of the MDC to remove me. We have it also on account that Zvorwadza’s nephews has previously castigated him for his fraudulent activities, for his violent activities. At one time he even assaulted his nephew in a board meeting in Zimbabwe and we are saying at the time that we had our board meeting or that they had their so-called extraordinary meeting, Mr Zvorwadza had already been suspended as a board member and also from the organization.

So he was going to be submitting himself to a disciplinary process. As to the so-called, I mean Ronald (Murevererwi) had also been expelled for reasons to do with aiding and abetting Mr Zvorwadza’s clandestine activities.

Guma: Now Mr Tapa I’m left with two minutes, I’m left with two minutes for the programme and I need to wind up because of time. Can I give you each a minute to summarise your arguments? Let me start with you Mr Tapa since you were already talking. Could you, what happens from here? You have these two camps now and everyone is just getting statements from different camps, people want to hear from you what happens from here, within a minute if you could summarise your position?

Tapa: What I’m saying is – the arrest of Mr (Tichanzi) Gandanga for the so-called theft was instigated by Zvorwadza and he actually paid police, we now know and the police have said we want an audit. The audit statement has now been given to the police so all this was cooked up in order to try and remove people from positions.

We hear that it is because of the money that is coming from the donor, we also hear that Zvorwadza was angry that Mr Gandanga could not hire his vehicles at five thousand US dollars a month per vehicle which he said was unprocedural and also included conflict of interest.

So in this whole thing, my view is that the people that you have calling themselves ROHR Zimbabwe and purporting to have met in Harare at an extraordinary board meeting which no-one knew about, which was blatantly unconstitutional, we are saying we don’t recognize them. As a result of that they have formed themselves into a new group and we wish them all the best…

Guma: Okay your one minute is up, I really need to wind this up. Grace your minute – could you summarise, where does this leave ROHR Zimbabwe and what’s your position?

Mupfurutsa: Thank you very much to SW Radio Africa for this opportunity, as far as ROHR Zimbabwe is concerned, takanaka, we are legitimate, we are registered in Zimbabwe and we will continue operating in the UK and in Zimbabwe. We are not taking over any system, we are just continuing business as usual. We have removed some unhelpful individuals whose conduct has let the organisation to come under fire from members for violating their human rights, so we have removed those negative elements and we are cleaning up shop.

We have got debts that are outstanding which we are honouring for accommodation in Zimbabwe of our office, staff who have not been paid since January of this year because the money had gone into Tapa’s pocket…

Tapa: …that is not true…

Mupfurutsa: …We have put up another web site because Mr Tapa is refusing to hand over the official web site for ROHR and he is also refusing with Mrs. Benton to hand over the bank accounts etc but the legal processes for the police to get involved and the fraud office has already kicked in. I do not foresee a further week without a complete resolution to this. I am not going to be name-calling or slagging Mr Tapa down because as an individual I really like him. His conduct has left much to be desired and I wish him all the very best in his future endeavours.

Guma: Alright, we’ll have to end the programme there. That was Ephraim Tapa and Grace Mupfurutsa from the two rival groupings that formed the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe. I have to thank both for joining us on the programme and having a mature discussion and debate on the issues at stake. That does it for Question Time this week.

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