Munyaradzi Musiiwa/Elizabeth Tsuro Midlands Reporters—
GWERU mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and Town Clerk Daniel Matawu have been arrested for the alleged theft of $187,500 —part of which was used to pay for MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s stay in a Gweru hotel last year. Midlands police say Kombayi and Matawu caused the transfer of the money to pay Antelope Park and Regency Hotel Fairmile on March 5 last year.
Tsvangirai was in Gweru on that day, meeting street vendors and threatening mass demonstrations against the Zanu-PF government. Claiming the economy was “dead”, he added: “We’ve the capacity to mobilise and there’s no doubt that we’ve the capacity to exploit the current state of affairs.”
Police now say after his street show, Tsvangirai — whose party is broke — and his entourage treated themselves to leisure activities at Antelope Park, on the outskirts of Gweru, where visitors can walk with lions. When night fell, the MDC-T leader and his team — according to police — were accommodated at the Regency Hotel Fairmile, running up a massive bill.
Kombayi and Matawu — whose council was failing and is still struggling to pay its employees and deliver social services —allegedly picked up Tsvangirai’s bills using ratepayers’ money. The suspicious payments were uncovered by auditors sent in by Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who reacted to crippling strikes by unpaid council workers.
The minister, on the strength of the audit findings, later suspended Kombayi and 11 councillors.
Acting Midlands police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Ethel Mukwende told The Chronicle last night: “I can confirm that we’ve arrested suspended Gweru Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and Town Clerk Daniel Matawu this afternoon. We’re preferring charges of theft, fraud and criminal abuse of office against the two.
“These allegations arose from a special audit that was carried at the council. I will furnish you with further details once investigations are completed. The two are still in police custody assisting with investigations. They will appear in court soon.”
Last night, Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said he needed more time to look into the claims, promising to give the former Prime Minister’s reaction today.
Kombayi and Matawu recently had their suspensions lifted by the Bulawayo High Court, which ruled that the Local Government Minister had no powers to suspend councillors.