By Andrew Kunambura
Some senior MDC officials are pushing for the arrest of party leader Nelson Chamisa and secretary-general Chalton Hwende over allegations of misappropriating ZW$2 million from party coffers as internal fights in Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition party escalate.
The opposition figures have roped in government officials, including Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, in their bid. Contacted for comment, Ziyambi confirmed being approached by MDC officials over the funds.
The money, which has been mentioned in view of an impending internal audit, is believed to be part of the funding the party receives from Treasury annually as provided for under the Political Parties Finance Act.
MDC insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent that the matter has added to the serious divisions and infighting in the party, with some opposition hawks opposed to Chamisa’s continued leadership of the movement smelling blood and pushing for criminal charges to be pressed against the firebrand youthful politician.
Chamisa’s supporters have, however, dismissed the allegations, saying they are being levelled by a group of “disgruntled” party members, whom they accused of working with his opponents in a move meant to embarrass him. They said there is no substance in the allegations. The officials also say Chamisa had, in fact, been transparent by ordering an audit given that the party’s books had not been inspected for over a decade.
Several camps, some of which are based on tribe, are emerging in the MDC although there are two main factions, one led by Chamisa, and another by his long-term rival Douglas Mwonzora.
As initially reported by our sister publication NewsDay a fortnight ago, the MDC hired independent auditors after ZW$2 million allegedly vanished from its accounts last year.
“The case in which ZW$1,9 million was stolen and used for other purposes other than party activities has been a major issue in the party since the case was made public and some are saying arrests should be made,” an MDC official said. “I think you
will understand that, previously, the task of handling party finances lay squarely with the secretary-general, but that changed with the amendment of the party’s constitution at the 2014 congress to give the president more control of party finances. So in this case, there are some people in high positions who are smelling blood and are fancying their chances that this time they have their man. Should auditors confirm that indeed the money was stolen, it is highly likely that the matter will be reported to the police.”
As part of the push, a group of discontented MDC officials have approached the government, seeking to be furnished with details on the exact amount of money the party received under the Political Parties Finance Act since the death of founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018.
Edwin Dzambara, chairperson of an outfit calling itself Defending Morgan Tsvangirai Legacy (DMTL), which is believed to be sponsored by some MDC heavyweights, confirmed in an interview with the Independent this week the ongoing push for Chamisa’s arrest.
“We have approached the Justice ministry seeking a written clarification on how much the party has received since the death of Morgan Tsvangirai. The ministry has promised to furnish us with such information in two weeks and we are waiting for that correspondence from them,” Dzambara said. “We want to demand for the accounting of that money. We want to compare if what the party got tallies with the programmes and events which the party undertook. Imagine that at the congress in Gweru last year, people had to bring their own food and find their own accommodation. There was not even water to drink and yet the party has been receiving various amounts of money all this time.
“So this is what we want to establish and, if we realise there are anomalies, like we suspect, we will definitely file a police report. We need to establish all the facts. We are gathering evidence before we make the police report.”
Mwonzora, who has been linked to the outfit, distanced himself from the development, saying: “I am not involved at all in those things. I am concentrating on my roles (as deputy secretary for international relations) in the party and in parliament, nothing else,” he said.
Ziyambi said: “Yes, they came and made an inquiry, but we told them that the information they want was published in the Government Gazette and they can check it out for themselves rather than bothering us.”
MDC deputy spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the party was “officially” not aware of any misappropriation of funds, but should there be, auditors, who have already begun working on the party’s financial books, will be able to detect it.
“Officially, we are not aware of any missing money and the treasurer-general of the party recently issued a statement categorically stating that neither he nor the president of the party has received any such report. All we have seen are alarmist press reports,” Tamborinyoka said.
“But what I want to reiterate is that consistent with a resolution of congress and with the character and culture of transparency and accountability, congress resolved that there be annual audits of the party. And the first of these routine annual audits is currently underway. And the results of this routine audit, the first in the history of the party, will be furnished to the relevant organs of the party. Nothing will be swept under the carpet. I am not sure as to whether anyone would call for the arrest of anyone in the party.
“That is tantamount to pre-empting the audit, which is routine and has not been eventuated by the alarmist reports of any missing money. As I said, nothing will be swept under the carpet and, if there is any skulduggery on anyone’s part, the audit will find them out. What must be lauded, and what other political parties must follow, is the trendsetting culture by the MDC to audit its finances and to make the report public to the relevant stakeholders and organs of the party. That is a first in Zimbabwe’s politics and that is the news. Anything else at this stage is speculative.”
MDC insiders say Chamisa sanctioned the internal audit because the party’s books remained unaudited since 2009. They also say Chamisa used part of the allocation from Treasury to settle outstanding salaries of MDC employees, who had not been paid for several months.
Chamisa loyalists accuse DMTL of attention-seeking, adding that the group’s latest move was bent on destabilising the party.
An MDC official told the Independent that Dzambara is masquerading as a member of the party and was being used by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Dzambara is also accused of being part of the outfit that split the MDC in 2005 when Welshman Ncube deserted Tsvangirai.
“He is not in the structures. He is just an overzealous fellow and an attention-seeker, doing the uncalled for,” the official said.
Dzambara said he was a member of the party.
“That is expected, especially when you hunt for such important information. I would question why we did not go to any other party, if we are not members of the MDC. We are the founding members,” Dzambara said, adding that Chamisa had compromised the impending audit.
“He cannot audit himself out of the MDC. This is just a camouflage audit,” he added.Last year, the MDC received more than ZW$4 million under the Political Parties Finance Act. – The Zimbabwe Independent.