MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa angrily dismissed the story penned by the newspaper’s political editor, Faith Zaba,  at a press briefing held at Harvest House, the party’s headquarters in  Harare soon after the paper hit the streets on Friday.

Energy and Power Development Minister Elias Mudzuri, co-Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa, and Mines Deputy Minister Murisi Zwizwai were named by the usually reliable business weekly as the three ministers under a corruption probe by a 14-member MDC committee for corruption.

Chamisa rubbished the claims and described the alleged probe as a figment of Zaba’s imagination.

“We would like to state and place it on record that there are reports that are disturbing, reports that are malicious and mendacious that have been carried in The Independent that the party is carrying out a probe on certain ministers belonging to the MDC,” Chamisa said. “What I wish to state as a matter of fact is that no such committee has been put in place by the party to probe ministers. And there is no such probe that is targeting ministers, and that our ministers do not have any allegations levelled against them.”

Chamisa said what was correct, however, was that the party through its leadership in the National Executive and the National Council, had indeed set up a committee headed by deputy secretary general Tapiwa Mashakada, who attended the press briefing, together with other members of the National Executive, to target illicit and corrupt activities in all local authorities.

“Because this is where we have received certain reports on the violation of what we call the citizen charter as the MDC, which is the contract between the councillor and the citizen and the residents,’ the MDC spokesman said. “We are supposed to have professionalism, accountability, transparency in the way in which council business is transacted. We have had problems in Chitungwiza, Bindura, and those challenges have all been put under the spotlight through this committee and there has to be no confusion between this committee which is dealing with the local authorities and the so-called committee which has been formed in the Independent which is probing ministers.”

Zaba’s story was based on information supplied by unnamed sources, purportedly sitting in the National Council and National Executive.

Chamisa said the MDC respected the independence of the media, but urged journalists to write the truth.

“Yes, we have zero tolerance on corruption, we also want zero tolerance on falsehoods,” Chamisa said. “We would appreciate it if those facts are anchored on substance. As we are moving forward we are clear that our party has done more than any other political party to target people who are corrupt. In fact, more than any political party in this country, we have managed to deal with corruption with finality and conclusion.”

Chamisa, who is also a minister himself in the inclusive government, said there were no sacred cows in the National Executive, National Council, in Parliament, government or in the local authorities, “but it’s not correct to say that certain ministers have been probed”.

“These ministers have they been probed? Certainly no,” Chamisa said.

“In fact as far as we are concerned the MDC would like to inform the nation that the mentioned officials, the Energy and Power Development minister, Honourable Mudzuri, who is our organizing secretary, the co-minister of Home Affairs, Hon Giles Mutsekwa, our national executive member, and the deputy minister of Mines, Murisi Zwizwai are not being investigated by the party for any corrupt activities. We have no evidence or allegation of ay corrupt dealing or underhand dealings. In fact these ministers, together with other ministers, have continued to be living examples of what being a party of excellence is all about. They are part of a team that is determined to deliver real change. And we believe real change is only possible when we deal with corruption head on.”

Describing the ongoing blitz as a “countrywide crusade” which was unstoppable, Chamisa said it was false that the MDC was exhibiting signs of weakness.

“It’s a sign of strength to deal with your own who are victims of mischief,” he said. “It’s a sign of strength to deal with your own who have not been able to live up to the dictates and precepts of the party. We do respect newspapers and freedom of expression. But that story is not correct. It’s a false story.”

Efforts to obtain comment from Zaba were futile as her mobile phone number was not reachable.

Chamisa added: “We are going to deal with corruption. If we were to get evidence against anyone in the party about any corrupt activities, the party would deal with those corrupt activities, decisively and in a progressive manner. But to try and impose and plant certain issues is unfortunate. In fact, we would have hoped that they were going to be in touch with the spokesperson, with the party, just to get the facts on what the situation is instead of quoting ghostly sources to say that there is a senior source talking about succession when, in fact, succession is an ailment that is quite endemic in Zanu-PF.”

Zaba’s story insinuated that the probe against the three ministers, who she claims to be close to the Prime Minister, was aimed at incapacitating and tainting the officials ahead of the 2011 MDC congress.

Zaba wrote: “However, a person close to the named ministers described the probe as a stage-managed enquiry by individuals on the National Executive who wants to get rid of certain persons, whom they perceive as threats to the succession issue in the party.

“The three individuals are perceived to be close to the Prime Minister,” her article quotes an unnamed MDC official. “This move seems to confirm the succession agenda. The three have for a long time been labelled part of the kitchen cabinet and it now appears that the succession kitchen cabinet is going full throttle to obliterate the kitchen cabinet,” the quotation proceeded.

Chamisa rejected the succession story saying it was “never our disease.

“We know this (succession) disease from Zanu-PF,” Chamisa said. “And we feel sorry for them. But it is not a weakness of the MDC. And I just wish to place it on record that we have a clear Constitution, our leadership is not suffering from any succession dispute.”

Chamisa said the party had not received any complaint against any of the MDC’s deployees to government.

“It’s not up to us to just go on a tsikamutanda (witch-hunt) drive seeking to locate problems where there are no problems,” he said. “We are going to be consistent. On issues where we get allegations, then we will pursue them. But we have not received any evidential information implicating any of our ministers.

In fact, our ministers have been models of excellence. They have been models of a leadership of excellence in terms of their discharge of duties to the extent that we do not have any kind of implicating evidence. It is not up to us to go on a witch-hunt. That is not our business. We really want to do that assuming that there are problems.”

The Zimbabwe Times heard that the MDC was addressing a letter to the editor of The Zimbabwe Independent, Nevanji Madanhire, demanding a full retraction on the front page of the next issue, failing which, the party would take legal action against  the newspaper.