JOC comprises heads of the country’s police, army, prisons’ service and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Official sources say security service chiefs were desperately campaigning for Tsvangirai’s arrest over the issue before the next elections. It is said they wanted the premier picked up last September while Mugabe was at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, a move which would have triggered local and international outrage.
JOC hardliners were also probing to check if Finance minister Tendai Biti was not an accomplice. They also wanted to arrest Biti over the US$500 million (SDR funds) which the IMF gave Zimbabwe in 2009.
The situation deteriorated this week amid revelations that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, who was the negotiator between Mugabe and Tsvangirai when the deal to give the premier $1,5 million was struck in late October or early November 2009, was facing arrest for “obstruction of the course of justice”. Gono was not available for comment.
Mugabe is reportedly sceptical over the issue, while JOC hardliners are convinced Tsvangirai had a case to answer because he allegedly engaged in “double-dipping” after he got $1,5 million from Reserve Bank and $1 million from Treasury to buy and renovate the property located at 49 Kew Drive in Highlands.
Mugabe fired warning shots across the bows of JOC bosses this week, saying police should not “just rush to make up things against the prime minister”.
JOC’s position appeared to be becoming increasingly untenable this week amid disclosures that Vice-Presidents John Nkomo and Joice Mujuru, Deputy Prime Ministers Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe were also building houses with “state assistance” as part of a programme approved by Mugabe, raising questions why Tsvangirai was the only one targeted.
“It will be interesting to check who the complainant in this case is. Is it the president, who approved the project, is it the RBZ or the Minister of Finance who released funds? I can tell you that none of the above is the complainant, so the next question is pushing this investigation?” a source said.
“Well, it’s some members of JOC, but this case is going nowhere because you have an unwilling star witness in Gono and the involvement of the president.”
The case is so high profile that it is being handled directly by Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, who sits on JOC. Criminal Investigating (CID) chief superintendent Alison Nyamupaguma is leading the investigation team.
The detectives have been to RBZ, several banks and the courts and trawled documents in a bid to nail Tsvangirai. Nyamupaguma wrote to the RBZ on July 18 last year asking for help to gather more information.
Details show that letters had been flying between top police offices, including that of Chihuri, and the banks as part of the investigations. The RBZ and four commercial banks, CBZ Bank, ZB Bank, BancABC and Interfin are involved in the case.
Police last year obtained a warrant of seizure from the courts in terms of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to facilitate their investigations, particularly to confiscate documents from the banks.
After Chihuri wrote to RBZ governor Gideon Gono last year and got several responses to his queries, relations between the two started deteriorating amid misunderstandings and accusations that Gono was not being sufficiently cooperative.
As a result of clashes within government and JOC over the issue, information was filtering through this week that police wanted to arrest Gono over the issue.
“It’s a very complicated issue, but the long and short of it is that after Tsvangirai and the MDC-T pulled out of government in October 2009, Gono acted as mediator between the president and the prime minister,” a source said.
Sources said the deal to assist Tsvangirai with funds to buy a house was struck just before a crucial Sadc troika summit in Maputo, Mozambique where Zimbabwe was top of the agenda following the MDC-T withdrawal from government on allegations that Zanu PF was violating the GPA.
“MDC-T had a list of 28 grievances, including Mugabe’s refusal to allocate Tsvangirai an official residence. Tsvangirai complained that Mugabe was staying at Zimbabwe House while he was prime minister but was denying him the opportunity to stay there when both State House and Zimbabwe House were vacant,” said the source.
“The two (Mugabe and Tsvangirai) then met and ironed out some of the issues and in that meeting it was agreed that Gono would look for money for Tsvangirai to buy a house, resulting in the release of the US$1,5 million. “Tsvangirai wanted more money but it was later agreed he would use the allocation to buy a house after which treasury would release more funds for renovations. The agreement was struck at a crucial time for the country and the two leaders were keen not to embarrass each other by talking about petty issues such as failure to allocate the PM a house at a Sadc summit,” said the source.
Tony West real estate was then tasked to identify the house before funds were released from the central bank to CBZ. Tsvangirai’s close relative, Hebson Makuvise, now Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Germany, received the funds on behalf of the premier and did the all transactions that later followed as the money was transferred through various. Makuvise was involved because top government leaders usually do not use their own banks accounts to transfer money.
The securocrats have been eager to nail Tsvangirai over the alleged fraud case and double-dipping. It has since emerged Mugabe was aware of the project and approved release of the funds, hence his reluctance to have Tsvangirai arrested.
Mugabe told ZTV in his 88th birthday interview on Tuesday that the police should be have solid evidence before moving against Tsvangirai.
“What we don’t want is people getting arrested on the basis of evidence which is not clear and on the basis of facts which have not been thoroughly investigated,” said Mugabe.
“The police must investigate these cases thoroughly so that by the time they get to the stage of building a case and taking it to the court, they are quite sure that they have a case against the particular individual to who it relates, but just rushing to build a case against somebody doesn’t do us good at all. If anything, it harms our reputation and I hope they have investigated the matter thoroughly, not just rush to make up things against the prime minister.”