Zimbabwe’s wilting opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) leader Douglas Mwonzora has the dubious distinction of grabbing control – with the help of the state apparatus – of a once-formidable party which defeated the ruling Zanu PF in the March 2008 parliamentary elections, and then becoming its undertaker – burying it six feet under.
However, it was not a futile agenda from a personal point of view for Mwonzora – in fact it was his most profitable move in his personal journey in life and chequered political career.
Now, he is going for the kill to make a killing. Having finished the state funding largesse that he grabbed with the party – perhaps his main motivation – Mwonzora is now going for the properties.
He is bidding to sell some of the MDC’s most prized assets to raise money to settle arrears, including utility bills, salaries and other operating costs, while also raising cash for himself, insiders say.
Sources say the party’s vast property portfolio includes its headquarters Harvest House, now known as Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, in central Harare, residential stands, provincial offices and 25 safe houses bought and donated by well-wishers since the party’s formation in 1999.
Some of the properties such as provincial offices are registered under a company called Laphonic Investments formed during the late founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s leadership.
The company’s directors at inception included senior party officials, particularly Tendai Biti, Elton Mangoma and Theresa Makone.
The MDC was founded in September 1999 by Tsvangirai and his Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union and professional colleagues such Gibson Sibanda, Isaac Matongo, Welshman Ncube, Tendai Biti, Gift Chimanikire, Fletcher Dulini Ncube, Tapiwa Mashakada, David Coltart, Thokozani Khupe, Tafadzwa Musekiwa, Job Sikhala, Learnmore Jongwe, Evelyn Masaiti, Esaph Mdlongwa, Morgen Komichi and Pauline Mpariwa.
The party split starting 2005 and several times after that, but the MDC-T faction led by Tsvangirai remained the main formation until his death in February 2018.
When Tsvangirai died, Nelson Chamisa took over amid a fierce succession battling with Khupe.
After the 2018 elections, in which Chamisa performed well only five months in charge, Mwonzorwa seized the MDC-T and the MDC Alliance backed by Zanu PF, state security agents and the courts.
He was assisted by state agents to physically seize control of the party’s headquarters, its citadel of power.
After his ascendancy to the helm of the party following a controversial court ruling, apparently with Zanu PF and state assistance, Mwonzora changed the directors to include himself, Mashakada and Julius Musevenzi.
Properties listed under Laphonic entail the MDC provincial offices for Harare in Highfields and other regional offices in Kwekwe, Bindura, Marondera, Chinhoyi, Gweru and Masvingo, sources said.
There is also a stand under the company in Harare’s Kopje area and two others in Mutare, they said. Further, Mwonzora is now exerting pressure on party structures to sell some of the properties to raise funds for the party and himself.
His moves started in earnest in August during a party standing committee meeting in Harare as he sought a resolution to first sell properties occupied by the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in Chinhoyi, Kwekwe and Bulawayo.
“Manoeuvres to sell party properties are underway. Mwonzora wants to sell the properties to settle bills and raise money for himself. He is saying if we sell the properties now at our greatest time of need, we will replace them when the time comes.
His intention is to sell the properties at higher prices, pay bills and then buy cheaper ones so, while keeping some of the money in the process,” said a source.
The NewsHawks heard that MDC Bulawayo offices were at an advanced stage of being sold, but the deal fell through when the prospective buyer demanded title deeds, which Mwonzora did not have.
Some of the people who donated properties to the party withheld the title deeds.
The sources said Mwonzora also wants to sell off the MDC’s 25 safe houses which were used to provide a refuge to party members and supporters whenever they were under threat from Zanu PF or the state.
“There is also the issue of the 25 safe houses which the party owns. Mwonzora also wants to sell them. Currently he is keeping with him documents for the safe houses which he got from Toendepi Shonhe (former MDC director-general) who used to manage them during the Tsvangirai era.
Shonhe surrendered the papers to Mwonzora under a certain arrangement. As for the Harvest House, Mwonzora has put a price tag of US$3.5 million on it,” a source said.
The sources said Mwonzora’s motivation is to collect state funds that were due to the MDC before the recent elections and raise more money from sale of the properties. The Political Parties (Finance) Act provides for the financing of political parties by the state; to prohibit foreign donations to parties and candidates.
Mwonzora has collected millions that were disbursed to the MDC under the law. he got US$45 000 just before the August elections.
The sources said Mwonzora also pocketed US$8 000 from an Indian firm that wanted to rent part of Harvest House.
The expectation was that the money would be used to pay outstanding salaries of workers, but sources Mwonzora insisted that he wanted to use it to travelled to the United Kingdom to attend the Labour Party’s congress held recently from 8-11 October.
Mwonzora and party officials have denied wrongdoing, with the MDC undertaker saying he has now instructed his colleagues to stop talking to The NewsHawks.
The NewsHawks has relentlessly criticised and exposed Mwonzora and his party’s duplicity, political deceit and greed as a Zanu PF Muzorewa-style stooge.
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