Now Daily Investigation
To much of the world, Morgan Tsvangirai is the perfect symbol of resistance to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe’s heinous excesses. The French government awarded him the highest honour reserved for foreign dignitaries, the Legion of Honour. The South Koreans gave him a doctorate in administration, a major achievement for a former mine labourer without much formal education. The United States president Barack Obama invited Tsvangirai for a meeting at the White House, an honour not easily granted to foreign opposition leaders. Previously, the US government had ensured he was enrolled on the prestigious Harvard leadership programme, a major milestone and stepping stone for many future world leaders.
But while the world media gapes in awe at the achievements and ‘resilience’ of this man, born to poor peasant farmers in arid Buhera district and hardened through the rigours of the trade union movement, a new picture is emerging of an African politician who has used murder, brazen theft and undemocratic means to get to where he is. Take a closer look at him and you will be shocked by the chequered image you see.
Asked by the BBC in 2013 why he could denigrate a man who was revered by world governments, reputable academics and oppressed people everywhere as a fighter for freedom, former secretary-general of the original, united Movement for Democratic Change which Tsvangirai has now personalised, Welshman Ncube responded that such people did “not know” him. Ncube should know better, having witnessed and become a victim of the horrific violence Tsvangirai unleashed on fellow MDC officials when they protested the party leader’s dictatorial tendencies in 2005 and the movement split.
Many will remember images of Harare North MP Trudy Stevenson attending parliament with a hand in a sling and in bandages after she was attacked on the orders of Tsvangirai, an episode that was well documented after an investigation by lawyer and former party official David Coltart. Later, more images were published of a bleeding and bruised deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma in a tattered shirt, and secretary-general Tendai Biti cowering in an office at the party headquarters, with Tsvangirai’s murderous thugs howling at the door. According to Mangoma, it was Tsvangirai himself who shouted to the hooligans to start attacking him in 2014, a move which cost the party vital donor support.
What many have not reckoned, or find hard to fathom, is that Tsvangirai could order the murder of fellow democrats fighting to topple a system rooted in murder. As a Now Daily investigation now reveals, an unknown number of people may have been killed on Tsvangirai’s orders, some of it disguised as Zanu PF hits, in a scandal that could land him at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, facing trial for political murder alongside Mugabe and other killers like Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan.
On Monday March 31, 2014, the MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai held a meeting at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare with Midlands proportional representation senator and his reported lover, Lilian Mpofu Timveos. Mpofu Timveos, the party’s national secretary and shadow minister for home affairs had been one of the instigators and fundraisers for the violence against Mangoma and Biti. The purpose of the meeting was to plot the way forward after the horrific violence against Mangoma and Biti had been published worldwide, with disastrous consequences. Western governments, including the United States and Canada, erstwhile allies of the MDC-T, had issued public statements condemning the violence.
Tsvangirai was agitated. Western agencies that had previously been conduits for funding had cut ties with his faction. In fact, it had become apparent that the US had started sponsoring a breakaway faction then known as the MDC Renewal Team, led by Mangoma and Biti. Tsvangirai was broke and desperate. He blamed his former colleagues for poisoning the waters with Western funders.
Mpofu Timveos had come up with a strategy to raise funds for more violence by hoodwinking certain Western NGOs and embassies into sponsoring so-called ‘community projects’ which she was going to set up for the restless Tsvangirai militias baying for the rebels’ blood, as well as ‘workshops’, which were to be turned into planning meetings for the attacks. So far, the International Organization on Migration had provided Mpofu-Timveos with a large number of T-shirts, which were distributed to the MDC-T militia. Transparency International-Zimbabwe sponsored a workshop, which was turned into a violence planning meeting with fellow MPs aligned to the militia such as Ruth Labode, Lwazi Sibanda and Nomathemba Ndlovu, who threatened, during a meeting sponsored by TI-Z at the Crowne Plaza, to personally stab Mangoma to death. Other NGOs, such as Yidez, had provided materials for flower, potato, mushroom and chicken projects, which were all diverted to the militia, which was made up mostly of women and youths. The US embassy had given Mpofu Timveos application forms for small grants and these were distributed to the militia, who were encouraged to apply.
During the meeting with Mpofu Timveos, the violence scheme’s chief architect and fundraiser, Tsvangirai called for death and violent retribution against party officials calling for him to step down as the movement’s leader. Also in the meeting with Tsvangirai and Mpofu Timveos was Tawanda Chimhini, director of the Election Resource Centre (ERC), a Western-funded NGO which was clandestinely bankrolling the violent plans under the guise of opposition to the Electoral Act.
The violence campaign was expected to be rolled out as mass action against the recent passage in the Senate of the “deeply flawed” Electoral Act. The plan was that during the “mass action”, MDC-T members opposed to Tsvangirai would be singled out for violent attacks, which would then be blamed on Zanu PF and the security forces. Another member of Tsvangirai’s so-called ‘violence committee’, then MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora gave a hint of the coming chaos when he told the Voice of America’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe programme that the party would use “legal and extra-legal (meaning violent)” methods to prevent the Electoral Act taking effect.
Among those targeted were Mangoma, Biti, Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya and Chitungwiza chairman Alexio Musundire, who had been suspended and had a party vehicle violently seized from him by Tsvangirai militia gang members led by one Masimba, who later boasted about the act to Mpofu Timveos in a Meikles hotel room where he was seen pinching her bottom as she giggled.
The violence was launched by Tsvangirai soon afterwards in Gweru at a rally organised by Mpofu Timveos, disguised as the launch of a party musical album featuring Mwonzora. Ominously titled ‘Tsikamutanda’ or ‘the witch-hunter’, the album contained lyrics calling on Tsvangirai to sniff out party rebels and get rid of them using violence. What followed afterwards was an orgy of attacks against MDC-T members and activists, including a member of the party’s security team, whose body was discovered weeks later in an advanced state of decomposition under a mound of rubble in Zvishavane, Mpofu Timveos’s home town, not far from the venue of Tsvangirai’s rally. NewZimbabwe.com said it was an “inside job”, blaming the intra-party violence for the death of the activist. Several other murders and mysterious deaths were reported countrywide during this time.
“I am going to set up violence committees in every district,” Mpofu Timveos told Patson Murimoga, a convicted criminal and the coordinator of the violence as she gave him the mission in Room 852 of the Meikles Hotel on the evening of March 31 2014, the day she met Tsvangirai. “The committees are going to be made up of party youths. Their task will be to attack Biti and Mangoma supporters who are calling for the removal of Save (Tsvangirai’s totem). By July they will be history, and then we will hold our party congress.”
The MDC-T spun into chaos soon after this. Thugs like Murimoga, who had served three years in jail for arson were on the prowl against senior party officials, following their attacks on Biti and Mangoma. Mwonzora had phoned Mpofu Timveos to personally thank her for funding the violence against the pair, and many others, including youth secretary Promise Mkwananzi, who was seen running across central Harare, with Tsvangirai’s thugs in pursuit.
Still, both Mpofu Timveos and Mwonzora were not satisfied with the outcome of the violence so far as it had failed to drive Mangoma and Biti out of the party but had, instead generated widespread sympathy for them and caused more hostility for Tsvangirai.
“We must just fire Mangoma and Biti,” Mpofu Timveos told Mwonzora on the phone.
“Yes, we must fire Mangoma and Biti. Why should we keep entertaining trouble-makers,” Mwonzora said, sensing this as an opportunity to take over Biti’s post, which he eventually did.
Murimoga later called Charlton Hwende, who was in Namibia, to thank him for sending money for the violence against Mangoma and Biti, which he had transferred by Ecocash to families of some of the arrested hooligans, including James Chidhakwa. Murimoga also called Denford Moyo, chairman of the MDC-T branch in the USA from the mobile number 263 773 364 621 and thanked him for sending money for the violence, a crime that could get Moyo deported by Washington. Moyo has previously denied sponsoring the violence. However, Now Daily has a record of his transfers, some of them disguised as support for the ‘Tsikamutanda’ album, whose proceeds, it was agreed, were to go into the violent plan.
Mpofu Timveos invited Mwonzora, who was acting as lawyer for the arrested thugs to the Meikles hotel, where she plied him with alcohol. The two celebrated their success in beating Mangoma and Biti with a bottle of expensive red wine, which she bought. Mwonzora did not much like the wine, preferring Castle Lite, which got him heavily intoxicated before she took him to her room, fuelling speculation started by minders of Mpofu Timveos’s husband that the pair were having an affair.
Tsvangirai went on a nationwide tour, denouncing former trade union allies like Lucia Matibenga, who had called Mpofu Timveos his ‘prostitute’, and calling for their death. Soon, the strategy of using MDC-T rallies to attack fellow party officials backfired. There was an avalanche of criticism that Tsvangirai was exhausting scarce party resources to boost his personal ego after losing the 2013 elections to president Robert Mugabe.
“Filling stadiums is not the same as filling ballot boxes, that’s the lesson Tsvangirai needs to learn,” said one cynical senior party official.
The violence plan could have succeeded, had Mpofu Timveos not been exposed as Tsvangirai’s lover, which soured relations with her husband Michael Timveos, a Cypriot-Greek merchant who had been providing a lot of the funds used in the attacks and shelter to characters like Murimoga, who was on the run from the police following the Biti/Mangoma attacks.
On March 9 2014, Radio Chokwadi, a whistleblower website set up by MDC-T workers, published photographs of Tsvangirai and a smiling Mpofu Timveos leaving a Harare lodge, captioned: “Another marriage in the making?” The MDC-T office workers who wrote the story alleged that Tsvangirai was having affairs with Mpofu Timveos and numerous other party women, calling him ‘Gumbura’, after the Harare clergyman convicted of rape and abusing female members of his congregation.
The allegations threw Mpofu Timveos off-balance. She contacted Mwonzora on the Sunday the story broke. A secret plan was devised to have Mpofu Timveos’s husband Michael Timveos brought to Harare the next day, where he would be chaperoned to an arranged meeting with Tsvangirai. Photographers would be on standby to take pictures of the two men shaking hands and posing with their wives to ‘prove’ to the world that there was ‘no scandal’ as reported.
The plan fell through when Timveos promised several times to travel to Harare but did not show up. This threw Mpofu Timveos, Mwonzora and other senior party officials into panic. When Murimoga kept phoning him and sending messages that Timveos was wanted by Tsvangirai for a ‘meeting’, the businessman known for his acidic temper shot a message back on Whatsapp: “Young man, stop bothering me.”
Afterwards, Timveos cut funding to the MDC-T. This was confirmed by then party organiser Francis Masendeke, who said utilities to the party office in Gweru had been cut off as the businessman and illegal gold dealer, who once reportedly contributed $3 000 a month to party activities, was no longer paying the bills as previously arranged.
Mpofu Timveos roped in other violent characters within the MDC-T such as Memory Mbondiah, the Harare central police station bomber, Ronia Bunjira, Tabitha Khumalo and several others for a nationwide campaign of violence. The militia became known as ‘Boko Haram’ and committed widespread atrocities against MDC-T members opposed to Tsvangirai. So horrific were some of the attacks that Mpofu Timveos later went to the self-styled ‘prophet’ Walter Magaya seeking psychological help. She left abruptly after she was asked to confess.
Mpofu Timveos is now embroiled in further controversy after relatives of an MDC-T supporter found murdered in her home town demanded that the case be re-opened, with her role being closely examined.
The murder was investigated by the police, who concluded that the dead man, a taxi driver, was the victim of a carjacking. Two suspects were convicted over the murder and sentenced to death in 2014. However, NewZimbabwe.com reported at the time the dead body was discovered under a mound of rubble near Lot 4 in Zvishavane that the murder was an ‘inside job’ linked to the violent factional clashes that rocked the MDC-T at the time. The MDC-T neither denied nor confirmed the report.
Relatives of the man have now told Now Daily that they want the matter to be revisited after new evidence emerged confirming that the killing was political and the car robbery was thrown in to confuse investigators.
Mpofu Timveos, who still leads Tsvangirai’s violent so-called ‘Boko Haram’ militia was one of the instigators and chief sponsors of the gruesome violence that ravaged the party in 2014, it emerged. The violence was mainly aimed at former secretary-general Biti and deputy treasurer-general Mangoma, who were brutally assaulted at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare by thugs hired by Mpofu Timveos, but also targeted others. Apparently, Tsvangirai’s violent purge was also aimed generally at silencing and getting rid of those who had highlighted the damage to the party of his growing encyclopaedia of violence, sex scandals, theft of donor funds and hobnobbing with Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Mpofu Timveos confirmed that she had hired the thugs on behalf of the party leader.
“Biti and Mangoma deserved to be beaten,” Mpofu Timveos told Now Daily after being asked about her role in the violence and if it was right for a so-called democratic party to use violence to resolve party differences.
The violent episode has cost Tsvangirai vital support, including that once availed by countries like Norway, which set him on the way to real power when he was still a hapless trade unionist. Now, some say, mysterious deaths of several activists should be investigated to clear the party leader of involvement.
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