Mugabe approved release of the funds and virtually made it clear last week that he was opposed to the investigation, warning police “not to just rush to make up things against the prime minister”.
Since the probe started in June last year, police have neither confirmed nor denied there is an investigation against Tsvangirai underway, although the Zimbabwe Independent has unassailable proof that they were doing it.
This week police chief spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said they were “not giving a comment on the matter”.
Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, a member of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which brings together army, police and intelligence services chiefs, is personally handling the probe, although the investigations officer is chief superintendent Alison Nyamupaguma from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). The CID has searched and seized documents from banks and other premises hunting for evidence against Tsvangirai.
Chihuri has written several letters demanding information from Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono who negotiated the deal. Gono, who initially cooperated albeit cautiously, has since refused to be a star witness on behalf of the state against Tsvangirai as the transaction was approved by Mugabe, sparking a fierce fight within state institutions over the issue.
Police now want to arrest him for refusing to play ball, although that could prove to be an uphill task given that he got approval from Mugabe to do the transaction.
The situation is further complicated by disclosures by the Independent last week that Vice-Presidents John Nkomo and Joice Mujuru and Deputy Prime Ministers Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe were also currently building houses with “state assistance” as part of the programme approved by Mugabe.
This has put police in a difficult position, although sources say their case is premised on alleged “double-dipping” by Tsvangirai who received US$1,5 million from the central bank and an extra US$1 million from Treasury to buy and renovate the same property located at No 49 Kew Drive in Highlands, Harare.
Tony West Real Estate identified the house before funds were released from the central bank for CBZ to pay the seller.
Tsvangirai’s relative Hebson Makuvise, who is now Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Germany, received the funds on the premier’s behalf and did all transactions that later followed as the money was transferred through various banks.
Tsvangirai insisted last week there was no issue as the money was a “loan” and described the investigation as a “wild goose chase”. This was after Mugabe had last week come out publicly warning police to be careful with their probe.
Despite Mugabe’s pointed remarks over the case, the Independent, which first exposed the investigation in detail, gathered this week that police are carrying on with the probe, showing their determination to defy Mugabe and nail Tsvangirai.
Sources within the police said this week JOC bosses were sticking to their guns, hoping to stumble upon irrefutable evidence of fraud against Tsvangirai along the way that would assist them in nailing him before elections.
Official sources say security service chiefs were desperately campaigning for Tsvangirai’s arrest to eliminate him from the race to state house. Although there is no official complainant in the case, information gathered this week showed that the police were pushing for Tsvangirai’s prosecution with the state being the complainant.
“The state becomes the complainant in such a matter although no one has come forward to file a complaint,” a senior officer said. “In serious matters such as fraud and murder, we don’t need a complainant. If someone is killed and we have evidence that someone committed the crime, we arrest that person and bring the evidence to court, such as the murder weapon and so on,” the officer said.
“In this case, we are banking on our strong evidence with the state being the complainant. In any case, in criminal cases, the state is always the complainant although someone would have filed a complaint. So it doesn’t matter that no one has filed a case.”
Chihuri has been so involved in the investigation that he has been personally writing letters searching for information. On July 14 last year, he wrote to Gono asking him for his cooperation.
“I write to advise that we are carrying out investigations in the transfer of US$1 500 000-00 from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to CBZ on 13 November 2009, purportedly for the purchase of the Prime Minister’s House,” Chihuri’s letter reads.
“I kindly request you to avail any documents and information relating to this case that you may have. In particular we would be interested in knowing (i) How the money was requested and by who? (ii) What was the purpose for the money? (iii) Is it a loan, if so payable by whom and when?”
The following day Gono replied to Chihuri’s letter.
“The US$1,5 million was requested by the Prime Minister, and cleared by His Excellency the President on 13 November, 2009. He (The PM) wanted more for both purchase and renovations but we could only recommend and get authority for the $1,5 million from His Excellency, the President, with any balance required being sourced later and elsewhere as we did not have the capacity for more. I hold all the documentation and background to the loan,” he said.
“The money was for the payment of the Prime Minister’s residential house including whatever component of renovations that were meant to be carried out. The actual budget figure for intended renovations was not known nor was it revealed to me then or to date.”
The securocrats are also investigating whether Finance minister Tendai Biti was not an accomplice and also want him arrested over the US$500 million (SDR funds) which the IMF gave to Zimbabwe in 2009.
Mugabe approved the release of Tsvangirai’s funds from both the RBZ and treasury, to appease the premier who had partially pulled out of the inclusive government in October 2009 in protest at Zanu PF’s failure to honour the Global Political Agreement as well as Mugabe’s refusal to allocate him an official residence.