HARARE – A visit by a team from the Public Works ministry to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Highlands mansion (pictured) last week has set in motion the protocol for his departure from the official residence after losing the July 31 poll.
Despite earlier statements by George Charamba, President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, that “no one will evict him from the house; there was an agreement that he could purchase the property and the agreement still stands,” official sources say hawks in Zanu PF are pushing an order directing that Tsvangirai vacates the official residence.
The team touring the No. 49 Kew Drive mansion made it clear that if Tsvangirai failed to vacate the house, government would take action and could also enlist the help of the police in taking possession of the house.
Just before the end of the inclusive government, Tsvangirai and Mugabe negotiated a safe passage during one of their regular Monday tea meetings at State House and that both entered a gentleman’s agreement that whoever lost elections would be treated with respect.
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed on an assurance that the loser would be given enough time to vacate the official residence or buy the property in Tsvangirai’s case.
But there is apparently an attempt to go back on the agreement to give Tsvangirai the right of first refusal to buy the property.
The move to evict Tsvangirai also comes as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has opened a fraud docket against him and his close relative, Hebson Makuvise, Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to Germany, who are alleged to have received two payments from Treasury and the Reserve Bank in 2009 to purchase the house.
To add salt to injury, all officers, special assistants and advisers to the former prime minister, including those seconded to Charter House from other government departments, are facing dismissal from government ostensibly because of fears that they will “contaminate” the civil service.
“Reference is made to the ongoing restructuring and re-organisation in the civil service,” said a September 27, 2013 Civil Service Commission letter to one of the directors in the ex-PM’s office.
“Accordingly, the commission intends to retire you from the civil service in terms of Section 18(4)(e)(ii) of the Public Service Regulations, 2000.”
Tsvangirai’s five years in power are disastrously drawing to a close. His security details have been withdrawn and reinstated, and aides have witnessed their leader’s painful departure from his Charter House office.
Just before the July 31 blowout, Tsvangirai, a gritty former prime minister, was brimming with confidence.
Now he faces the spectre of losing the mansion that the Public Works ministry is reportedly valuing at over $4 million – a top line ripple for Tsvangirai – a move that could force him to return to his modest Strathaven home.
Tsvangirai and his wife Elizabeth moved into the Highlands pad in April last year ahead of their wedding.
The mansion was renovated by government after the former trade unionist failed to move into Zimbabwe House – Mugabe’s former residence when he served as PM soon after independence in 1980 until 1987.
The father of six, who shared executive powers with Mugabe during the subsistence of the GNU, has a right as a sitting tenant to buy the house and has indicated his intention to do so, raising questions on the push by the “hard-line faction” to evict him.
Tsvangirai’s Highlands house was valued at $790 000 before improvement and officials say its value is nowhere near the $4.5 million being peddled by the Public Works ministry.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, said the ongoing attempts to evict Tsvangirai were part of a “decimation and humiliation campaign despite the role he has played for the country.”
“His work as prime minister responsible for the government work programme which gave respite to the people of Zimbabwe are there for all to see,” Tamborinyoka said.
“His package cannot be decided by junior officers who seem determined to humiliate him. It can only be decided after a meeting between the former prime minister and the president.
“Surely, if there was a dignified exit for (racist supremacist Rhodesian leader Ian) Smith and Abel Muzorewa (the first black prime minister of the short-lived nation known as Zimbabwe-Rhodesia), why try to do it differently for Morgan Tsvangirai?
“Its a barbaric plot to humiliate him,” Tamborinyoka said.
“He remains concerned about the proper package not only for himself, but for the whole country. Zimbabweans demand the package of a legitimate election.”
Tambrinyoka said for Tsvangirai, “it has never been about material benefits for himself but for the whole country.”
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist since independence from Britain in 1980 but faced the biggest test of his rule of three-plus decades from Tsvangirai, the veteran trade unionist and founder of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who alleges fraud in the July vote.
Observers say Tsvangirai’s insistence that Mugabe stole the vote has angered a Zanu PF faction, which is hell-bent on ensuring that he is tossed out with nothing.