Tsvangirai told his lieutenants in the MDC-T in February 2010 he would not accept the housing deal.
Surprisingly the Prime Minister went ahead with the housing arrangement which is now raising a lot of dust amid allegations of fraud involving the Prime Minister. President Robert Mugabe and his party, Zanu (PF) are now trying to use Tsvangirai’s alleged housing scandal to cow him ahead of possible elections this year or next year.
Roy Bennett, the exiled MDC-T treasurer general, told the United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray that he advised Tsvangirai not to accept the arrangement because it would create a harmful perception. Bennett told Ray, that he was aware of reports that Tsvangirai was “buying a US$1 million house in Harare”.
In a US diplomatic cable dispatched to Washington after discussions with Bennett, Ray said: “He (Bennett) was aware of reports that Tsvangirai was buying a US$1 million house in Harare. Bennett said he investigated and discovered that two individuals associated with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono had proposed buying the house for Tsvangirai. Bennett said he urged Tsvangirai to turn off the arrangement and Tsvangirai agreed.”
In the cable the US ambassador said Bennett told him that Tsvangirai had, however, accepted two vehicles from the two individuals associated with Gono. The two individual are not named in the cable.
Despite giving assurances that he would not accept the arrangement, Tsvangirai went head and reportedly received US$1.5 million from the RBZ and at the same time received another US$1 million from treasury for the same purpose.
The deal is now embroiled in controversy after the police said they were investigating the Prime Minister for possibly fraud. The PM is being accused of diverting the initial US$1.5 million he received from the RBZ earmarked for the renovation of his official residence, a double storey mansion in Harare’s low density suburb of Highlands.
Reports in the state media suggest that while the PM’s official house was still being built and almost complete and ready for occupation, questions were being raised about what the US$1,5 million he received from the central bank to renovate the house was used for.
In discussion with the former US diplomat, Bennett said there were rumours that several MDC-T ministers were involved in corrupt practices but the party would not act on rumours.
“He admitted, however, that the perception of corruption was harmful,” Ray said.
Ray said Bennett told him that the MDC-T Standing Committee also discussed in February 2010 the Marange diamond situation and resolved to take a firm stand.