'Strive Masiyiwa donated US$1 million to MDC-T'

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ECONET Wireless founder Mr Strive Masiyiwa has been implicated as one of the funders of the opposition MDC-T party led by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, after it emerged in court that he pledged to pay $1 million for the party's 2008 harmonised elections campaign regalia.

Mr Masiyiwa, who has not been in the country since 2000 — a year after MDC-T was formed, is now based in London. He has constantly denied links to the party.

The new claims were made by Security Mills director Mr Laurence Zlattner in his evidence-in-chief before Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Maxwell Takuva on Friday during a trial where MDC-T is being accused by Cabal Trade Finance (Pvt) Ltd and Zlattner's Security Mills (Pvt) Ltd of refusing to pay over R4 million for t-shirts, wrappers and bandanas which were reportedly used during the Presidential run-off campaign.

Zlattner who was being cross examined by his lawyer, Advocate Richard Fitches, said officials from an MDC-T support group, Zimbabwe Democracy Now — fronted by the opposition party's former security advisor, Simon Spooner — told him that Mr Masiyiwa had promised to fund the printing of the regalia.

"They told me that Mr Masiyiwa had promised to give them $1 million for the printing of the campaign material. The order was made on the strength of the verbal agreement which was made by the support group on behalf of MDC-T," said Mr Zlattner.

His testimony preludes that of MDC-T treasurer general, Mrs Theresa Makone who denied that her party authorised Bulawayo South legislator Eddie Cross to order regalia worth over R4 million for the 2008 presidential run-off, arguing that at the time the orders were made the party already believed that its leader, Mr Tsvangirai, was going to State House.

Makone was testifying in defence of the opposition party.

The two firms were placed under judicial management by the Bulawayo High Court after reportedly accruing a combined debt of R4 627 863, 93 for printing the MDC-T regalia.

In her testimony under oath, Makone said a look at the invoices issued out by Cabal Trade Finance revealed that the regalia was for the first election of 29 March 2008 which was paid for and the party could not have made another order for a run-off before the main elections were held.

She said even after the election her party could not have ordered the material as they could not have foreseen a run-off since results had not been announced and Tsvangirai had also set his eyes on State House.

"I am aware that on 20 June, the party president (Tsvangirai) withdrew his candidature for the run-off, exactly seven days before the election date. For the Plaintiffs to say some of the regalia was taken after 20 August would be nonsensical for the party to require or wear regalia of a candidate who had withdrawn from the election," said Makone.

"The regalia which was produced in court was for the first election in March and does not relate to the run-off. Eddie (Cross) was only given the permission to fundraise for the party on his own accord by the then secretary-general, Tendai Biti for the first election and he paid $15 000 for the regalia to the Plaintiffs. He even dissociated himself from the second order which is in dispute here, as he said he was ill and was in South Africa," she added.

She said after the general elections it took about six weeks for the results to be announced and at that time the party could not have ordered campaign material as it was sure it had won the election and Tsvangirai was heading to State House.

"That's why there were many court challenges in relation to those elections because we were quite sure that we were going to State House and could not have ordered campaign material for a run-off," she said.

Makone said she got to know of the regalia after her conversation — in person — with Cross, Roy Bennet and former secretary-general Tendai Biti that Zimbabwe Democracy Now was behind the order which it intended to donate to the party.

Justice Takuva reserved his judgment in the matter to allow the two parties' lawyers, Advocate Fitches for the two firms and Mr Douglas Mwonzora for MDC-T to file their written submissions, latest August 14.

The two firms allege that MDC-T legislator, Cross and the party's former security advisor, Spooner, entered into an oral contract with the companies and ordered election regalia for the party sometime in March 2008. The order was for the manufacture and supply of 200 000 t-shirts and bandanas.

Cross and Spooner allegedly made an undertaking to pay as MDC-T agents, but they defaulted prompting the companies to take them to court.

However, in its defence, MDC-T questioned Spooner's authority of making an order of campaign material on behalf of the party, saying it never entered into a deal with the two firms.

However, the two firms sought to prove that Cross, who is a member of the MDC-T national council authorised Spooner to enter into a verbal agreement with Security Mills represented by Laurence Zlattner to print and supply the 200 000 MDC-T campaign t-shirts and bandanas.

MDC-T admitted in a pre-trial conference that Cross was a member of their national council.

Initially another judge, Justice Lawrence Kamocha had dismissed the two firms claim after he upheld the MDC-T's defence that Cross and Spooner did not have "express authority" to enter into a contract with the manufacturing companies.

However, the companies appealed to the Supreme Court where the matter was referred back to the High Court for trial by deputy chief justice Luke Malaba sitting with Justices Ann-Mary Gowora and Yunnus Omerjee after they set aside Justice Kamocha's ruling.


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