MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has no legal basis on which to claim a pension for his time in government, analysts said this week.
Tsvangirai claims that President Robert Mugabe has refused to give him a pension because the former Prime Minister in the Government of National Unity (GNU) refused to endorse his electoral victory in the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections.
But analysts this week said the former trade unionist has no legal basis to claim a pension after serving in the inclusive government that ran the country between 2009 and 2013.
Lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law expert, this week said there was no law providing Tsvangirai a pension, adding that even if he was owed any, he could not claim it from President Mugabe.
“(President) Mugabe is not a pensions officer, so if he has any claim to make, he should know where to go… why should he want (President) Mugabe to approve his pension?” queried Madhuku.
He added that if Tsvangirai were a principled leader, he would not accept payments that could compromise his integrity.
But fellow opposition politician and lawyer, Jacob Mafume, told the Financial Gazette that while indeed there was no provision at law for Tsvangirai to be given a pension, it was only morally right to extend one to him.
“We believe that we need to allow our politicians to retire in dignity and appropriately. The reason why they cling on to posts is because they are not given a cushion to rest on hence they have to continue as politicians if their lifestyles are not to change,” he said.
“The ex-PM has no law in place that allows him a pension, but that law can be made quickly after having held that post, and to pretend that it was nothing is why Zimbabwe is a cursed nation… we only celebrate dead heroes with granite tombstones, but the living ones are scorned and neglected. What harm will befall our country if he gets the pension?”
Mafume said it was an oversight that the matter was left out during the constitution-making process but it can still be corrected.
This week, Tsvangirai’s spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, said there were precedents of people who served as Prime Ministers for whatever period and got their pensions.
He cited Abel Muzorewa, who served for six or so months and got his pension as well as Ian Smith.
We are talking here of a Prime Minister, who, according to the Constitution, was equal to the President. According to the Global Political Agreement, the two shared executive authority and he served almost five years. Even others who served in lesser positions like former Speaker of Parliament Honourable Lovemore Moyo got their pensions,” Tamborinyoka said.
His response, however, skirted issues raised because all the people that he referred to — from Smith to Moyo — had their pensions provided for under the law.
In written questions duly delivered to Tamborinyoka, the Financial Gazette had sought to understand the chapter and verse of the particular law that entitles Tsvangirai to a government pension for the period he served in the coalition government.
The newspaper also wanted to find out whether Tsvangirai had formally approached the Pensions Office with his claim, and what the response was and who else, apart from Tsvangirai, could be entitled to a pension amongst MDC-T officials who served in the inclusive government.
Tsvangirai did not go alone in the coalition government, but had deputies and ministers from the then two formations of the MDC.
There have been media reports suggesting that Tsvangirai, who is battling cancer of the colon, recently picked US$70 000 from the office of the President and Cabinet and it was in the process of “clarifying” this matter that Tamborinyoka raised the matter of the alleged outstanding pension with one of the local newspapers.
Among the question sent to Tsvangirai by the Financial Gazette were the following:
When the ex-PM accepts cash gifts from the office of the President and Cabinet (as reported) does he ask whether the gift is from the President in his personal capacity or from the Office of the President? In the event that the ex-PM considers that he is entitled to a pension from government, as someone who is a champion of democracy and good governance, does he see it proper and fit for him to be collecting his “pension” via the Office of the President and Cabinet instead of from the Pensions Office?
When Mr Tsvangirai expects President Mugabe to approve his pension, should he complain that the President has too much power, when by his very own actions, he appears to be promoting that culture where everything revolves around the President?
Has the ex-PM approached the Pensions Office apropos of this pension issue, and if so, what has been the response? In the event that he has received no joy, as a former trade unionist of repute, has he exhausted all the other dignified channels of accessing his dues, for him to appear to be accessing the pension in a not-so-transparent way?
Now that the ex-PM talks about his own pension alone and no one else’s, doesn’t this give the unfortunate impression that it is now an every-man-for-himself affair? How about those who have no ready access to the Office of the President and Cabinet, how will they get their own pensions?