MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai will keep his mansion in the leafy suburb of Highlands even under the current new dispensation, putting paid to manoeuvres by extremists in the ruling Zanu PF who were agitating for the eviction of the former prime minister, the Daily News can exclusively report.
There has been controversy regarding Tsvangirai’s residency in the $2,5 million property acquired in 2012 during the era of the inclusive government era in which the former trade unionist shared power with former president Robert Mugabe.
Following the liquidation of the uneasy coalition government that subsisted between 2009 and 2013, hawks in Zanu PF have been threatening to withdraw the house from Tsvangirai, saying he should either pay for it in full or vacate the property since it belongs to government.
Observers were also calling on Tsvangirai to move out of the property to avoid being compromised by the Zanu PF government.
Despite the concerns, Tsvangirai stayed put, insisting government owed him substantial amounts in pensions and other perks that he was entitled to as former prime minister which he could use to pay for the property.
To avoid losing the property, Tsvangirai had consistently referred intrusive Zanu PF hawks to Mugabe, who made sure the MDC leader continued to enjoy his full rights to the property.
Following the change of guard at Munhumutapa Building, it was feared that Tsvangirai could lose the property as part of the so-called Operation Restore Legacy spearheaded by the military and whose biggest casualty has been Mugabe, who was forced to resign last November.
The new administration has, however, come to the defence of the MDC leader, saying he was not going anywhere. Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, told the Daily News on Thursday that Tsvangirai, as former prime minister, was entitled to stay in the house. “Was he not a prime pinister, why would he be evicted?” he asked rhetorically. “And he retired under a Constitution that recognised his office,” he added.
The mansion had been shrouded in controversy from the time it was acquired five years ago. The majestic two-storey mansion — boasting of a huge guest house and spacious garage — was purchased from South African-based Justin Davenport in 2007 for $800 000.
It was renovated at an extra cost of $1,5 million to fit the expected standards of a high-profile official such as the prime minister amid accusation that the MDC leader had overshot the budget for the upgrades.
Private architects and contractors were engaged to revamp the H-shaped mansion in the A-list neighbourhood of Highlands and to Tsvangirai’s specifications.
It was alleged at the time it was acquired that Tsvangirai and his relative, Hebson Makuvise, who was Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Germany, misappropriated funds disbursed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in 2009 to bankroll the purchase of the home.
Tsvangirai, who used to stay in a modest Strathaven home in Avondale West, moved into the Highlands mansion in 2012.
Because of his failing health, Tsvangirai is now basically working from home and rarely uses his Harvest House offices in central Harare. He has been using the visitors’ wing to conduct his meetings.
Last year, he had marathon meetings that led to the consummation of the MDC Alliance in August as well as the signing of a memorandum of understating with National People’s Party leader Joice Mujuru.
As Zanu PF apparatchiks continued to frustrate the MDC leader’s stay in the Highlands house, government inspectors visited the property on several occasions to assess the mansion, creating anxious moments for the opposition leader.
In 2016, former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere threatened to evict him from the mansion after he openly clashed with the MDC leader over the appointment of Harare town clerk, James Mushore.
After the MDC-led Harare City Council settled for the former NMB Bank executive for appointment as the capital’s principal administrator, Zanu PF went all out to put spanners into the works.
Kasukuwere, who doubled up as Zanu PF’s national political commissar before his expulsion from Zanu PF last November, had given the MDC leader an ultimatum to ensure the dismissal of Mushore from council, failure of which he would be chucked out of the property.
At the time the inclusive government was established, Tsvangirai was expected to be accommodated at a sprawling property that used to house Canaan Banana, Zimbabwe’s first president — a stone’s throw from Mugabe’s then official residence.
Due to the dilapidated state of the structure, it was felt that another property had to be sought to house Tsvangirai although suspicions were rife at the time that Mugabe did not want the MDC president to be his neighbour due to their well documented rivalry.
Mugabe used to stay at Zimbabwe House from independence until he moved to his private residence in Borrowdale, also known as the “Blue Roof”. The State House, which used to be occupied by Banana was left vacant in 1987 when the post of ceremonial president was abolished.
At the time, Tsvangirai had protested what he termed “blatant contempt” for his role after he was blocked from occupying the property.
This became one of the reasons that forced the MDC to briefly disengage from the coalition government in October 2010 by boycotting Cabinet meetings in the aftermath of a Sadc troika summit held in Maputo in November of 2010.