Tsvangirai's honey money in spotlight

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s agreement to pay off his jilted lover Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo could open the floodgates for other women he had relationships with to claim compensation after they were dumped.

And it has invited questions about the sources of his wealth after it emerged he shelled out a six-figure amount. Tsvangirai recently married Elizabeth Macheka after a period in which a string of women were romantically linked to him.

Lawyers confirmed this week that Tsvangirai and Tembo, who were briefly married by custom last year for just over a week, reached an out-of-court settlement.

Sources close to Tembo say Tsvangirai agreed to pay $300 000 and will also have to pay her lawyers’ bills.

Tsvangirai’s dramatic political career took a knock after Tembo blocked his bid to wed Macheka in September, in a case that laid bare a messy private life.

Tembo’s attorney Jonathan Samkange confirmed this week that a deal had been reached out of court and said his client would withdraw her case against Tsvangirai.

“Yes, the matter is now settled. We agreed on a once-off payment, but I cannot disclose the amount involved,” the lawyer said. “On Monday, we filed a notice to withdraw the case that had been set down for (Wednesday).”

But a source close to the deal said: “The Prime Minister will effectively pay a total of $300 000 in cash to Tembo to formally end their relationship.”

Tembo had gone to court demanding $15 000 a month in spousal maintenance from the mainstream MDC leader.

Sources close to Tsvangirai say while he did well to close the issue and move on, the deal could set a precedent for other women to come with their own claims for different reasons.

“The premier did well to re-solve this issue through an out-of-court settlement. It gives him breathing space and an opportunity to close this controversial and sordid chapter of his life,” one Tsvangirai confidant said.

“However, our concern is that this might have set a wrong precedent. Look. $300 000 is a lot of money. My view is that she (Tembo) did not deserve that mount. It is just too much. But then that’s not the real problem.

“The danger is that some women might want to take advantage of that and come up with new demands for compensation.”

Tsvangirai has in recent months been linked with various women, including Arikana Chihombori, Leah Mhundwa, Josephine Chibale, Loreta Nyathi, Aquilina Kayidza Pamberi and Tembo.

South African national Nosipho Shilubane was also linked to Tsvangirai and, just days before his wedding to Macheka, said she had been promised a marriage and had applied to the courts to stop the event.

“Some of these women, like Shilubane, who claims she was promised marriage, might follow suit. That’s our worry but the premier is now happily married and the last thing he needs is such disturbances in his life,” the confidant said. “People must leave him alone.”

However, it appears Tsvangirai is still under attack from different quarters over his romantic interests.

Talk of a $300 000 payoff has sparked outrage in a country where the majority live on not much more than a dollar a day.

Zimbabweans on Friday took to social networks to condemn the huge pay-out from the Prime Minister of a cash-strapped government.

Former opposition leader and ex-Zanu-PF cadre Margaret Dongo demanded a probe into the source of Tsvangirai’s funds, saying it was worrying that public officials had such money to splash around.

“If the money is coming from donors, it’s a pity. Unfortunately for Africa, for Zimbabwe, the international community takes the view that as long as one is fighting (President Robert) Mugabe they deserve to be supported, even if they are corrupt. It is very unfair,” she said.

Some of his critics want the source of funding to be investigated.

His state salary is about $2 000 a month and he’s not known to own any businesses, raising suspicions that the former trade unionist could have siphoned cash from his party.

Innocent Sithole, a political analyst based in the UK, said on Facebook: “He has a government salary, and perhaps another from the MDC as its president ... Does he own private businesses? Since when?
 
“These are legitimate questions ... so to the usual attack dogs, please do not bark at me.” — Sunday Times

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