- …tantamount to death row
CBZ Bank has arbitrarily frozen Marry Chiwenga’s five company accounts without legal basis, blocking her from accessing her money which she desperately needs for sustenance and to foot urgent medical bills, following her acrimonious divorce with Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga last year, The NewsHawks has established.
This has resulted in her failing to access healthcare at a time the state is also holding onto her passport, denying her an opportunity to seek urgent treatment outside the country. The move is tantamount to condemning her to a slow motion death, or putting her on death row.
Marry is battling lymphoedema, a chronic condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs. It develops when the lymphatic system does not work properly or damage due to cancer treatment. Her critical condition and fragility was displayed in the public domain this week when she was forced to appear in court in a stretcher in an ambulance over money laundering and attempted murder charges after a magistrate had issued her with a warrant of arrest.
Her problems are being worsened by the freezing of her bank accounts by CBZ as she is now unable to access money to pay her bills, especially the medical ones. Marry’s lawyers, Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners, have written several letters to CBZ enquiring why the bank froze her accounts and demanding that the financial institution should allow her access. The bank has ignored the letters.
The former model is critically ill and desperately needs money for medication, legal costs, fees for her children before she married Chiwenga as well as to meet costs for her day-to-day needs and other obligations.
CBZ, according to her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, had no legal basis to freeze the accounts as there was no order from the court. She said the bank had only frozen the accounts because they were scared oof Chiwenga, a retired army general who is also former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
“We are instructed that since her well-publicised fallout with her husband, Vice-President Chiwenga, she has been unable to transact on this account (Matfield Investments Nostro) and despite many requests for an explanation, no one has been forthcoming from yourselves or your superiors at head office,” Mtetwa’s letter, dated 12 March 2020 and addressed to the Borrowdale branch manager, reads.
“Regrettably, this behaviour is not limited to your branch as all her attempts at transacting on all accounts she previously used with ease have met a similar fate. The only conclusion she has come to is that the decision not to process transactions is synchronised and has been taken by the bank. We advise that your conduct is unlawful and should cease forthwith as there has been no form of due legal process to bar our client from transacting on the account.”
In another letter to CBZ chief executive Blessing Mudavanhu, Mtetwa said Marry had been informed her accounts were now being managed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. “Regrettably, no one at the RBZ has owned up to managing the accounts and yet all her attempts to access money from the accounts have hit a brick wall,” Mtetwa wrote on 12 May.
“Our client has legal and medical costs to settle. She has day-to-day living expenses to pay for. She has other obligations to settle like everyone else. She has not been able to conduct her normal financial transactions because your institution is simply too scared to allow the Vice-President’s wife to access her funds without the powerful husband’s say-so.”
Mtetwa told The NewsHawks that the CBZ has ignored the letters.
“They ignored the letters because they know they do not have any legal basis to freeze the accounts. Right now she has no independent source of sustenance. There was no order, and no one has brought out a freeze order because it would have been served to her,” Mtetwa said. Chiwenga last month unilaterally delivered a truckload of her household goods and clothes as well as cars to Marry’s Highlands offices, although the divorce settlement is still pending in court. Marry was arrested soon after her acrimonious public fallout with Chiwenga and is facing several charges including contravening the Exchange Control Act, fraud, money laundering, attempted murder and assault.
She was arrested on 4 December 2019. Marry was this week forced to attend court in a wheelchair and on a drip being driven in an ambulance after magistrate Ngoni Nduna issued a warrant of arrest as she had initially failed to appear in court. Her lawyers had informed the court she was in hospital and was not fit enough to appear before the magistrate, but their plea fell on deaf ears.
The lawyers have also filed an urgent application for the release of her passport and alteration of bail conditions, which included the surrender of her travel documents, to allow her to travel to South Africa for medical treatment.
“The applicant is a fitting candidate for the alteration of bail conditions as bail should not be used as a punishment for crimes that she has not yet been convicted of. The presumption of innocence requires that this court looks favourably at the instant motion,” the application reads. “Failure to allow the applicant access to her passport and consequently have her reporting conditions altered directly affects her right to life.” The National Prosecuting Authority is the first respondent, while the clerk of the criminal court at Rotten Row is the second respondent.
“When I was arrested, I was undergoing treatment for wounds I suffered in a bomb blast in Bulawayo in 2018 and the treatment was undertaken by Johan Van Heerden. As is clear from the doctor’s letter his rooms are in Pretoria, South Africa. After my arrest, I obviously could not travel to South Africa,” Marry says in the urgent court application.
“After my arrest, I obviously could not travel to South Africa for medical treatment due to the bail conditions which included the surrender of my passports and reporting to the police on Friday once a fortnight between the hours of 06:00hrs and 18:00hrs. Although I had intended seeking a relaxation of these conditions to enable me to continue treatment under Dr Van Heerden’s care, this became impossible after there were Covid-19 travel restrictions which made it impossible for me to travel. “I nevertheless continued to seek treatment from local doctors but regrettably, the condition of my wounds became worse and my legs and feet continued to swell to a point where I have difficulty walking. The wounds on my arms have become worse in this respect and I am prepared to attend court so that the court can see for itself the extent of the wounds and how I definitely require immediate and urgent treatment.”
Marry said she has consulted local doctors who have confirmed there are no lymphoedema specialists in Zimbabwe, as her situation worsens every day and threatens her life. Her South African surgeon has confirmed his availability to treat her on an emergency basis. “I am in extreme constant pain, I now have to carry a gadget which drains the liquids from the wounds, without immediate specialist care, the wounds are becoming more and more septic and it is paramount that I receive immediate urgent attention to these injuries,” she said.
The South African surgeon Van Heerden said Marry needed specialised wound care and lymphatic drainage therapy to prepare the wounds on her arms for skin grafting. “Skin grafting can only be done if the tissue of the wound beds is healthy and the oedema is under control. Failure to adequately prepare the wound beds will cause the skin graft to fail and the whole process restart. This treatment needs to be administered by a wound care specialist and Mrs Chiwenga will need to travel to South Africa multiple times to receive this treatment,” the surgeon wrote in a letter that was presented as an annexure in the court application.
“Mrs Chiwenga will also need post-operative wound care, until all the wounds have healed. It is estimated that the total treatment will take approximately twelve weeks if no complications occur.”