Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Makoni, Mandaza do battle over funds

HARARE (Financial Gazette) - A bruising fight between presidential hopeful in the March 2008 elections, Simba Makoni, and academic, Ibbo Mandaza, for the control of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) has sucked in the Swedish government after it emerged that the Swedes funded the project to the tune of over US$25,000 in a bid to unseat President Robert Mugabe.

The latest revelations could spark a diplomatic furor between Harare and Stockholm at a time Zimbabwe is re-engaging the international community to get its economy back on track. The law only allows political parties to get funding through Parliament and not from foreign donors to avoid interference in the country’s domestic affairs.
Mandaza, the project’s national coordinator, and Makoni crossed swords last year over the allocation of resources and the alleged failure by the former finance minister to transform MKD into a fully-fledged political party.

MKD’s provincial executives then passed a vote of no confidence in Makoni, demoting him to an ordinary card-carrying member while instituting investigations into how resources donated to the movement were used. Issues came to a head when Makoni allegedly took away all printing business from Mandaza’s company, SAPPHO, and awarded the contract to ART Corporation. Sensing this was going have an immediate financial impact on his printing business, Mandaza wrote to Makoni on October 30 2008 urging him to come clean on the donations he may have received as the movement’s presidential candidate.

Mandaza tried to play down the Swedish Embassy’s role in capacitating MKD saying the money from the Swedes came through a contract between his company, Southern African Political Economic Series (SAPES), and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
This was after Makoni had reportedly queried and threatened to fire Mandaza over SIDA’s donation, prompting the latter to engage AMG Global Chartered Accountants to draw up an income and expenditure statement which exonerated Mandaza from any wrongdoing.
“Notwithstanding what you have been told by our mutual friend at the Embassy, please note that the Agreement is between SIDA and SAPES Trust; and obviously, it is was an arrangement that took into account during that period, the fact that Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn was being run from SAPES premises at 26 Deary Avenue, Belgravia.

The Financial Gazette discovered that the mutual friend being referred to was Sweden’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander.
Documents seen by this newspaper show that SAPES Trust contributed immensely to the birth of the MKD, providing offices and secretarial services from January 3 2008 to mid-April 2008, attending to the movement’s concerns, printing posters and fliers among other duties to the tune of US$30 096.50
In the documents, Mandaza said: “Of great significance here is the fact that all the US$25,385 was spent on work directly related to Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, against a budget provided to SIDA on 6 March 2008. In fact, such expenditure exceeded the budget by US$14,364.43 including the US$9,996, an amount MKD refused to pay SAPPHO Printing for the pre-printing work for the job subsequently completed at ART Corporation.

“Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn might have had enormous logistical problems were it not for the support rendered by the SAPES Trust, a task no doubt greatly facilitated and aided by the SIDA contribution. This was a period during which most estate agents and even hotels and public places were afraid to be associated with the movement that was challenging Zanu-PF. In the final analysis, only SAPES Trust and Rainbow Tourism Group provided space for meetings and those press briefings by Simba Makoni. Likewise, SIDA was one of the very few international organisations and the Swedish Embassy in Harare that gave Mavambo/ Kusile/Dawn both moral and material support.”
SAPES is said to have contributed at least US$30 096.50 plus US$12 364 which was said to be a deficit for the printing costs at SAPPHO.
Contacted for comment, Rylander said he had nothing to do with the issue, but pressed further, he opened up a little.
Although he denied having direct links with the MKD, he agreed supporting SAPES.
“There are no direct links with the Mavambo project. There was cooperation between us and SAPES and we don’t have any complaints in the manner in which they have handled our funding. We can’t be seen as an embassy to support political movements,” he said.

Mandaza could not be reached for comment.
However, Makoni referred all questions to the movement’s head of communications Godfrey Chanetsa who is aligned to him.
Chanetsa said: “Makoni has referred you to me because he probably doesn’t have a comment at the moment. I am aware of the intense debate over that subject between those mentioned in the documents you may have, but this is costing us as a movement.
“My function was to help campaign and as for the resources, Makoni and Mandaza should know where they got them, but I am sure they were legitimate and we complied with the country’s laws. Major political parties supposedly get funding from Parliament and that’s the law. This whole thing is costing us. I don’t think that we agreed that after the presidential election we waste a lot of time and energy throwing dirty linen in public.”

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