Zimbabwe's Serious Fraud Squad has opened up an investigation into the purchase by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of a mansion in the Harare suburb of Highlands with a particular focus on a loan made to Mr. Tsvangirai by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and additional funding from the Treasury for the acquisition of the house.
Sources said Mr. Tsvangirai decided to purchase the house as an official residence after the unity government’s 2009 launch, as President Robert Mugabe refused to relinquish either State House or Zimbabwe House to his prime minister.
Mr. Mugabe is said to have told Mr.Tsvangirai to obtain a loan from the Reserve Bank to purchase a residence. Sources said the decision was made after the Tsvangirai MDC formation temporarily boycotted the government in October 2009 – the question of the prime minister's residence was one of the issues that sparked the breach.
Mr. Tsvangirai is said to have obtained a US$1.5 million loan from the Reserve Bank to buy the Highlands house. He is said to have received $1 million from Finance Minister Tendai Biti for the same purpose. This is the focus of the investigation, sources said.
The Zimbabwe Independent weekly newspaper reported that “a warrant of seizure dated July 7 is targeted at Interfin, one of the banks involved in handling the US$1.5 million during various transfers through the banking system." The Independent said Chief Superintendent Alison Nyamupaguma is leading the investigation.
Sources close to Mr. Tsvangirai said the Treasury funds went to the purchase of the house, and the RBZ loan was obtained to allow the Prime Minister to purchase the house from the government in two years under an option that he holds.
MDC sources called the probe a politically inspired fishing expedition.
National Housing Minister Giles Mutseyekwa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said it was Mr. Mugabe’s intransigence that obliged Mr. Tsvangirai to buy the house.
Political analyst Livingtone Dzikira said that although did not see any illegality, he was appalled that Mr. Tsvangirai would accept a loan from the central bank, given his party’s harsh criticism of such practices by ZANU-PF politicians in previous administrations.