MDC bigwig in hot soup as party’s financial woes mount
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora — who is also the opposition party’s lawyer — is under fire for failing to take necessary steps to protect MDC property from foreclosure and charging the opposition party obscenely high legal costs.
This comes after the MDC headquarters was left empty in July last year after the Deputy Sheriff pounced on the opposition party’s offices and seized property in order to settle a $108 000 debt owed to one of the party’s former employees.
Mwonzora, as the party’s lawyer, is also accused of failing to make payments respecting rent, mortgage, specified utilities, taxes, insurance and other expenses related to the party’s Harvest House headquarters in central Harare.
The Daily News understands matters came to a head when Mwonzora, who is owed substantial amounts by the MDC, impounded cash that had been deposited into the party account to pay himself his owed cash.
The MDC treasury department has called for a misconduct investigation against the lawyer, who in 2016 was hauled by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) before the legal practitioners’ tribunal (LTP) at the High Court to answer to charges of unprofessional conduct.
Mwonzora had earlier faced charges of theft of trust funds. In 2006 he faced two other charges, but was acquitted by the courts.
According to an MDC official in the treasury department, Mwonzora has been notified that he will have to submit answers on why the party lost property to former workers as well as qualify some of his charges for legal services. He has also been accused of “sleeping on duty.”
Mwonzora confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the issue has been raised but was swift to point out it was now water under the bridge.
“Get a copy of the bill first and then we can talk about that issue. And on losing the party’s property, I have since won the case.
The property was attached because we were never made aware of the existence of the case, what happened was a number of former workers who left with Tendai Biti (now People’s Democratic Party leader) sued the party but what they did is that they did not serve the party with the papers such that I was unaware of the papers.
“When they came to remove the properties, I was away in London and the other MDC officials who are lawyers were unable to do anything.
“The allegations of sleeping on duty are not true, I was not aware of that. I certainly am not an incompetent lawyer. However, on the other issue, first see the documents involved and we will talk,” he said.
Mwanzora allegedly failed to protect MDC property and is also accused of failing to settle a judgment debt to the party’s former employees.
Former MDC employee Sally Dura, along with 15 other MDC employees, won an arbitration award for $600 000 for unfair dismissal.
Following the award, Mwonzora is said to have appealed and subsequently lost the appeal at the Labour Court.
The applicants then applied for the quantification of the award. Dura was owed up to 27 months’ salary arrears, damages for 36 months and other benefits.
Party faithful watched helplessly as the attachments were being executed, and also disrupted a meeting that was being chaired by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
In 2015, the Deputy Sheriff raided Tsvangirai’s residence in Highlands and the party headquarters but failed to attach any property. This was after the MDC reportedly terminated contracts of 13 security aides in August 2010 before the Labour Court reversed the decision and ordered the party to reinstate them with full benefits.
Justice Priscilla Chigumba ordered the party to pay a five percent interest on the varying amounts awarded to the employees in addition to the legal costs.
The Deputy Sheriff left Tsvangirai’s house and the party headquarters empty-handed after the MDC produced a court order staying the execution.
The Daily News understands knives are out for Mwonzora, who is a dark horse in the race to succeed Tsvangirai, and is alleged to be behind the formation of a social media team that is mounting ferocious attacks on a rival faction led by Nelson Chamisa.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka told the Daily News on Monday that “vultures have even formed social media teams to mount ferocious attacks” on him, on Tsvangirai’s life and on “veterans of the party in a dodgy race to nowhere because there is no vacancy.”
Tsvangirai’s move to affirm Chamisa as the leader of the MDC Alliance at the expense of his other two deputies — Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri — could rip the MDC apart.
Before he went to South Africa, Tsvangirai left Mudzuri in charge of the party while he gave the reigns for the leadership of the MDC Alliance, a coalition of seven political parties that he leads, to Chamisa.
Consequently, the two have had fierce run-ins. Insiders said Mudzuri and his allies are now feeling belittled and sidelined by Chamisa, who as the head of the MDC Alliance has been holding successful rallies while the MDC as a party is stuttering.
Mwonzora said he would like to engage the two leaders to end the simmering cold war.
Tamborinyoka has alleged there is a media campaign to rubbish an ailing Tsvangirai’s decision to delegate to Chamisa the Alliance business and also hype his sickness, but declined to name who was behind the campaign.
“I have spoken to the president myself today (yesterday) for over 25 minutes and I know his concerns around all these issues. He is telling the charlatans to stop, he is telling the charlatans to hold their horses.
“These people must allow us to concentrate on the real battle of fighting this government of Emmerson Mnangagwa. Tsvangirai is not the issue right now, we must not focus internally. They must allow us to go back to the proper narrative of the clueless government of Mnangagwa which has failed to grant reprieve to the despondent people of Zimbabwe.”