FORMER Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has got a reprieve from President Robert Mugabe after hardliners within Zanu PF pushed for his eviction from the Highlands mansion he currently occupies at a time when infidelity allegations against his wife were being splashed in the state media.
Official sources say hawks in Zanu PF took a hard stance against Tsvangirai after he refused to accept Mugabe and their party’s controversial landslide win in the July 31 general elections on the grounds the polls were systematically rigged.
Tsvangirai took the elections dispute to Sadc leaders, supplying them with a dossier at their Lilongwe summit in Malawi a fortnight ago, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Sadc leaders endorsed the elections and chose Mugabe as the regional bloc’s vice-chair after declaring the polls “free and peaceful”, although they refrained from describing them as credible or fair.
Tsvangirai also made a Constitutional Court (Concourt) application seeking nullification of the results and the holding of fresh polls, but the case collapsed after the courts refused him access to voting material to build a body of evidence.
Although Tsvangirai decided to withdraw the case, the Concourt pressed ahead with the case and dismissed it, confirming Mugabe’s fresh term as the country’s president.
Tsvangirai’s stance and his refusal to accept overtures from Zanu PF for a few of his officials to join the next government resulted in some Zanu PF hardliners pushing for his eviction from the Highlands mansion as retribution, sources said.
The house was bought and renovated by the state for his official use. It was not included in his exit package although there was an agreement that he could purchase it if he wanted.
Sources say some Zanu PF officials, however, wanted a “smart ejection” and were pushing for Tsvangirai to be given a chance to purchase the house, in line with the pre-elections agreement. But they wanted the house priced between US$3,5 million and US$5 million — figures they believe to be beyond his reach.
The hardliners, using the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), also supplied state media with communication purportedly between his wife Elizabeth and her alleged lover Kenny Ngirazi, in a bid to embarrass the former premier.
“Tsvangirai held discussions with people close to Mugabe over the issue of the house and the e-mails being published,” said a source close to Mugabe’s office. “The people took up the matter with Mugabe and convinced him it does not serve them well to have personal attacks on the former prime minister.
“On the house (issue), Mugabe is going with the moderates and wants Tsvangirai to be given adequate time to raise money to purchase the house.”
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba told the Zimbabwe Independent during the president’s inauguration ceremony that Tsvangirai would not be evicted, but would be asked to pay fair value for the house.
“We have to recognise that the man was the prime minister of Zimbabwe,” said Charamba. “Of course, a lot of things were said during the elections period when emotions were high, but we are a mature people and have held consistent elections since 1980, so we should be able to deal with post-elections issues.
“No one will evict him from the house; there was an agreement that he could purchase the property and the agreement still stands. The question is whether he can afford to pay for the house, because the state should get fair value for it.”
Charamba said he did not know the cost of the house, but said the relevant ministry (Public Works and National Housing) would have to value the house and come up with a price.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said he did not know whether Tsvangirai would purchase the house.
“He has the right of first refusal of that house. I’m not certain whether he wants to exercise that right or not,” said Tamborinyoka.
Sources say the house was Mugabe’s ace up his sleeve in attempts to co-opt the former premier into the new government. Tsvangirai, who reportedly has some properties in South Africa, including one in Bryanston in Sandton, Johannesburg, is said to be reluctant to move into his old homes in Strathaven and Ashdown Park, which he feels no longer meet his status as a former premier.
Besides, he acquired the properties while he was still with his late wife Susan, who died in a car accident in 2009.
House or no house, some hardliners in Zanu PF do not want the MDC-T leader in the next government and believe doing so would give him relevance at a time his political career and the fortunes of his party are at an all-time low, sources say.
Equally, most MDC-T members believe it would not be useful to be co-opted into the Zanu PF government because, for starters, Mugabe only wanted to give cabinet posts to a handful of individuals, which would help him solve his legitimacy issues and give the impression he is a statesman who wants to move the country forward.
“In any case, save for personal benefits, the ministers will not be influential at all and will be Mugabe’s runners,” said a senior MDC-T official. “Mugabe will be the only principal in government, so we will be very weak and our purpose will only be to spruce up his image and prop him up.”