Questions are being asked about self-imposed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) secretary general Sengezo Tshabangu's source of money to pay some of the country’s top lawyers for their services in a string of court cases and booking them in hotels.
Tshabangu, who triggered the controversial by-elections held yesterday in Matabeleland and Masvingo after recalling CCC councillors and Members of Parliament, has spent thousands of dollars ostensibly fighting opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s imposition of candidates.
But many believe he is doing it on behalf of the ruling Zanu PF, which is desperate for a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
The former MDC-T official on Friday caused the courts to disqualify from elections all the MPs that he recalled on the basis that their recalls meant they were expelled and no longer belonged to CCC party.
Investigations by The Standard established that Tshabangu, who had all along been based in Bulawayo, has ‘relocated’ to the capital where he is spending time and thousands of green dollars fighting for the control of the CCC.
His legal team comprising some of the country’s top legal minds are booked at top hotels whenever they travel to Harare for court hearings and at times spend up to a week in Harare.
The hotels where they have been staying charge an average US$150 for bed and breakfast per person.
Over the months, Tshabangu has stayed in top hotels in Harare for days although his source of income remains unclear and he does not control the CCC purse.
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In a press statement released on December 5, Tshabangu's legal team confirmed their stay in hotels.
"On the 4th of December 2023, after a High Court attendance, our client and his legal team returned to the Harare hotel where they are booked," the press statement read.
Tshabangu’s legal team includes top lawyers Lewis Uriri, Kucaca Phulu, Nqobani Sithole, and Kholwani Ngwenya.
Phulu, Sithole, and Ngwenya as well as their driver Alfred Dzirutwe are based in Bulawayo and they travel to Harare for the court cases.
Phulu is a former Nkulumane MP and first CCC official to come out in support of Tshabangu.
He is also a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member, a party that split from the then MDC led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai.
A senior lawyer privy to the case said Tshabangu may have been charged not less than US$20 000 in legal fees these past weeks alone. This excludes the hotel bills.
Tshabangu has also managed to pay the nomination fees for all his candidates in the by-elections held yesterday.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) charged US$1,000 per candidate. Tshabangu's spokesperson, Khaliphani Phugeni said he was unaware of his principal's source of income.
"I honestly do not know his source of income," Phugeni said. "I have never come across it."
Self-imposed CCC interim treasurer general Mbuso Siso could also not shed light on their source of funds.
Siso, an ally of Tshabangu who also contested the elections as one of the CCC double candidates in the August elections in Bulawayo ward, however, said they owed their legal team thousands of dollars.
“We have a huge bill for legal fees that eventually has to be paid,” Siso said.
He did not disclose the figure, but said they would source the money from sympathisers and well-wishers to settle the legal bill.
In a previous interview, Tshabangu claimed he was receiving donations from people living in the diaspora.
CCC activists have accused Tshabangu of being funded by the ruling Zanu PF party and disgruntled senior opposition party members.
Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa denied claims that the party was supporting Tshabangu with money.
"Zanu PF categorically denies any involvement in the financial affairs of Mr. Tshabangu or his legal team," Mutsvangwa said. "We have no interest in funding the internal squabbles of the CCC."
In November, Tshabangu demanded that the government disburse the party's share of the political parties grant directly into his personal account.
He wrote to the Justice ministry claiming the CCC as led by him, was entitled to a share of the public purse due to its performance in the August elections.
He instructed the exchequer to release the funds into his stewardship, specifying a CBZ account for the disbursement.
However, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the government would not release the funds until the dispute was settled in court.