Documents in possession of The Standard newspaper reveal that on March 24 2009 Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Willard Manungo wrote to the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) informing him about the cars.
Manungo said the two cars whose engine numbers are IGR5652858 and IGR565327, had been ordered by government from Aqua IT Southern Africa, based in South Africa and were exempted of import duty.
“The vehicles are supplied for the exclusive use of government in terms of non-duty paid contract and any duty leviable (sic) would be borne by government,” he said in the letter.
Norest Marara, who sold the two vehicles to the PM before they were initially impounded by the police in Beitbridge said Zimra had since written to Tsvangirai informing him that they wanted to seize the vehicles.
Tsvangirai’s two drivers, Clifford Sanyika and Joshua Mhuriyengwe, were arrested on their way back from South Africa in February and were accused of installing sirens and other security features on the vehicles.
Police said the beacon lights and sirens were for police or military escort vehicles. The case is still pending.
Marara was also picked up by the police a fortnight ago and was accused of allegedly not having followed proper customs and excise procedures when he imported the vehicles.
However, Marara last week explained that everything had been done above board.
He said the vehicles were bought in August 2008 for the Reserve Bank but the central bank refused to take them saying they did not meet its specifications.
Marara alleges the vehicles were cleared by Speedlink Cargo before they were put in a bonded warehouse until March 2009 when they were cleared.
“The duty-free certificates, proforma invoices were produced,” he said.
“These are government vehicles registered in the office of the PM.”
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the controversy over the cars was political. “It’s a political issue wearing a legal mask,” Tamborinyoka said.
Efforts to get a comment from police spokespersons Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena and Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka were fruitless as their mobile phones were going on voicemail.
This is the second time Tsvangirai is being investigated over the importation of cars from South Africa.
In the run-up to the controversial June 27 2008 presidential run-off election, the MDC-T leader’s armoured BMW X5 vehicle was impounded by the police in Lupane on accusations that he had violated customs regulations. The vehicle was donated to Tsvangirai by a South African businessman identified as Adrian Espag.