BY BLESSED MHLANGA
SHARP divisions have emerged in the MDC-T party over alleged abuse of funds, with the party’s treasurer-general Tapiwa Mashakada and finance director Tody Mapingire accused of embezzling $4 million.
The latest allegations came at a time when party leader Douglas Mwonzora is still battling to clear his name over allegations of diverting $6 million from party coffers to his personal use ahead of their extraordinary congress in December last year.
Well-placed sources yesterday told NewsDay that there were fireworks at the party’s standing committee meeting last week, with Mashakada being accused of failing to account for the funds.
Party chairperson Morgen Komichi said they had ordered Mashakada to present a financial report at the next standing committee meeting.
“Without speaking to specific allegations, I can say we are a party of transparency and accountability, we must be able to account for every single dollar we received and in that vein, we are, indeed, expecting a report on how that grant was used in the next meeting,” Komichi said.
But Mashakada denied the allegations of misappropriating party funds, saying they were part of a smear campaign to soil his image.
“All those things you are running with are complete fabrications. I don’t want to go into internal politics, but there are people attempting to soil my image because they want my position,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Mapingire referred all questions to Mashakada.
According to sources, Mashakada allegedly connived with Mapingire and created vouchers for which they sought approval from party secretary-general Paurina Mupariwa.
The two then diverted the money to proxies’ accounts.
“She (Mupariwa) would approve the payments in line with the party’s constitution, but since she is not yet a bank signatory, she would trust Mashakada to do the transfers to suppliers,” an insider said.
“The money was withdrawn into proxies’ accounts and as a result, the party is deep in debt.”
The MDC-T has been embroiled in a fight over money advanced to the party by government under the Political Parties (Finance) Act since Mwonzora took over as leader in December 2020.
In the past few months, the party made headlines after Patson Murimoga reported Mwonzora to the police, accusing him of stealing $6 million, an allegation the party leader denied.
Several senior party members, including vice-presidents Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri, Komichi, among others, made statements to the police nailing Mwonzora, but the opposition leader is still to be arrested.
But last week, Mwonzora, whose party is battling to pay utility bills, demanded an internal audit of party books.
“Mwonzora has since demanded an internal audit and also asked Mashakada to present to him bank statements from the day MDC-T received government funding to the date of last payment made,” the insiders added.
Pressure is mounting on Mwonzora to fire Mashakada, his ally, to prove that he did not benefit from the looted funds.
Party deputy spokesperson Khalipani Phugeni was the first to raise the allegations of theft two months ago during a standing committee meeting, but Mwonzora silenced him, saying the matter would only be discussed during a physical meeting.
The party is expecting another tranche of funds from the government next month.
Party members fear if the money is released before clearing grey areas, it would be abused again resulting in more tension in the opposition party.