On Friday November 5, 2010 The Herald newspaper published a story on the acrimonious property-sharing wrangle between President Mugabe’s corky Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo and his wife Marian.
The matter was referred by Judge President George Chiweshe last Wednesday for trial.
The issue has so far divided Zanu PF and caused so much anger in some party circles as they claim the revelations have exposed Zanu PF leadership as corrupt and dishonesty.
Some, particulary in the War Veterans Association are now calling for Zanu PF leaders to investigate the source of wealth for Dr Chombo.
However, behind the scenes, the issue is a continuation and escalation of intense Zanu PF infighting and skulduggery.
On Wednesday, a package addressed to the editor of the State newspaper The Herald containing a live bullet and blood stains and a letter warning him not to be involved in Zanu PF power struggles.
The letter suggested that the publication of the Herald story was influenced by Presidential Affairs Minister Dydimus Mutasa in his revenge mission following the arrest of his nephew Temba Mliswa.
In the past Temba Mliswa and Dr Chombo have clashed in their bid to wrestle control of Zanu PF’s Mashonaland West province.
In February this year, Mliswa as Mashonaland West secretary for lands and resettlement accused Dr Chombo and Information minister Webster Shamu of leasing out their farms to former white commercial farmers,
In a letter dated January 21 to the Zanu PF politburo copied to the media, Mliswa implicated Chombo and Shamu in the scam involving senior Zanu PF officials subletting more than 30 farms in the province.
Mliswa also said Chombo and Shamu were multiple-farm owners.
The provincial lands secretary promised to expose all multiple-farm owners in the province and also those subletting their pieces of land to whites in a report he will present soon to the party leadership.
However, Mliswa failed to fulfil his promise as he was eventually arrested together with Martin Mutasa, the son of Minister Mutasa, on corruption and violence charges.
When contacted for comment, Chombo said whatever Mliswa was alleging was nothing new as he had over the years been accused of having as many as 15 farms.
Chombo said Mliswa should bring these issues to the party leadership with evidence that he owned those alleged farms.
In a startling revelation of abuse of power, sources at the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry have now revealed that the Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who is a close associate of Dydimus Mutasa, has taken a direct interest in Dr Chmobo’s divorce case and he might have influenced the High Court judgement for its referral to trial as part of the revenge mission to hit back at Dr Chombo.
We can also reveal that sometime this year, Minister Chinamasa, instructed officers at the Deeds Registry to compile a dossier of all properties registered in Dr Chombo’s name and on occasions he has had secret meetings with his estranged wife Marian Chombo, and some even say he has become her legal adviser.
Our source also revealed that Mutasa, Chinamasa and President Mugabe’s chief spokesman George Charamba met soon after the Judge President George Chiweshe had delivered his judgement and they drafted an article which Charamba took to the Herald and ordered for its immediate publication.
Meanwhile Dr Chombo’s lawyer Innocent Manase of Manase and Manase responded to the story as follows:
"We noted the publication in The Herald headlined "Chombo, wife fight for property".
The article was written by Peter Matambanadzo, a journalist of your stable.
We represent Minister Ignatius Chombo in the case and what surprised us is the level of falsehoods contained in the article which left us baffled.
We must state we respect The Herald as a family publication. We also respect journalists in that they are mirrors of society.
But when articles are written by journalists and are published in respected papers like The Herald with falsehoods and without proper research or care for the truth we begin to doubt the motives of those behind the writing and publication.
Before going into the nitty-gritty of what was published, we must reiterate that on Wednesday, the 3rd instant we held a pre-trial conference in the Judge President’s chambers.
That conference was attended by the writer and Mr Motsi Sinyoro, who represents Mrs Marian Chombo.
Both Mrs Chombo and Dr Chombo were not present. We, indeed, saw Peter Matambanadzo in the Judge President’s clerk’s office.
We even greeted each other.
If he had reason to get the truth of what he went on to give the paper to publish, he was at liberty to ask the writer or Mr Sinyoro for the truth.
The pre-trial conference was to settle issues for trial. In this regard when we entered the Judges’ Chambers the main reason for the conference was to draw out issues admitted and those to be referred to trial.
Issues of property were part of the process.
We must mention herewith that the list of properties published by your paper as being in dispute and for which Mrs Marian Chombo is claiming is way out of the window of truth.
Most of the properties listed are not even part of the pre-trial minute drawn by the lawyers and their clients. Our client feels very hurt by the publication.
He has instructed us to write to you to express his displeasure. In fact, the article was intended to cause harm to our client’s reputation as a minister of Government.
It also paints a picture of a corrupt individual who amassed all the properties using his position since he has been a Government minister for the better part of his working career.
It also portrays our client as a person who amassed property using his office via illicit means.
What baffles and boggles the mind is that with the abundance of information in the court record, your journalist went out of his way to basically lie to the public. We proceed hereunder to mention the listed lies thereto.
-90 percent of the property listed on Page 2 of the paper does not belong to the Hon. Minister.
-That the minister has shares in 10 family companies including Dickest, Handinger, Landberry and Truck In Security.
-That the minister has interests in Mvurwi Mine, hunting safari lodges in Chiredzi, Hwange, Magunje and Chirundu as well as properties in South Africa.
We humbly request a retraction of the publications falsehoods which basically served to embarrass the Honourable Minister and to cause other hurts to his person, family and those who he loves as a normal being.
If, however, in the face of all the truth we hold together with the lawyers of his estranged wife, you decide to stick to what you published, we shall proceed to take legal action against the journalist concerned and the paper with a claim for damages and, of course, costs which shall follow the event.
We sincerely are no preachers for morality but there must be a semblance of truth and respect in all that you publish. Make no mistake our client shall not take this lying down.
We shall proceed as advised.
We are no messenger for your journalist. As stated herein above, the papers filed on Thursday with the High Court by Messrs Sinyoro & Partners contain the truth of what is at stake in the trial to follow and not the lies contained in the Friday publication.
The journalist must have done better homework than take a personal approach to the story.
The Honourable Minister deserves an apology and at least publication of the truth.
This our letter of complain must without doubt be published on the front page of your paper and be given the same prominence as you did in the Friday paper to the article complained of.
The unprofessional conduct of Mr Peter Matambanadzo shows that either he was downright malicious or he had other ulterior motives.
We have also copied this letter to the Judge President, Hon. Justice Chiweshe, as we believe one of his clerks connived in cooking up the list of properties.
Ninety percent of the listed property is all false and is not subject to any claim by Mrs Chombo.
While we do not hold a brief from her the truth of the matter is that if at all such property is being claimed by her and she knows where it is, she is at liberty to take it as hers without client’s intervention.
We say so, because it does not exist and Chombo owns it not".