It was renovated at a staggering cost of US$1.5 million to fit the high-profile standards and expectations of the prime minister. However, the project was mired in controversy. There were accusations that the late main opposition MDC founding leader had double-dipped during the process.
The issue caused a stir as political hawks in the late former president Robert Mugabe’s regime wanted Tsvangirai arrested over that.
The house had been bought by the government and allocated to Tsvangirai after he had boycotted government in 2009 during the coalition arrangement with Mugabe, protesting how he was being badly treated and not respected.
Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga visited Tsvangirai at the house in January 2018 – a month before he died – and subsequently the government assured his family it would not be evicted.
At the time Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba said: “Was he not a prime minister, why would he be evicted? And he retired under a constitution that recognised his office.”
After the meeting at the house, Tsvangirai left for South Africa for medical check-ups. The government was paying part of his bills. He subsequently died of colon cancer on 14 February 2018 in Johannesburg.
Two weeks after Tsvangirai’s death, Mnangagwa wrote to Elizabeth Tsvangirai (nee Macheka) technically taking control of the house, saying it was government property and authorities were offering to sell it to her.
“As you recall, when I came to see the late former Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe , Mr M.R. Tsvangirai, I informed him that the state would offer him to buy House No. 49 Kew Drive in Highlands (Harare), his official residence, as the former prime minister,” said Mnangagwa.
“I now wish to advise that the state is offering to sell the said residential property to you madam, as the surviving spouse of the late former prime minister, at a price determined by government of US$1 807 000.00. Please note that the purchase price is payable over a period of 60 months.
“Kindly confirm in writing, madam, if you wish to accept the offer as presented, in order to enable the necessary arrangements for the sale to be made forthwith. Alternatively, you should also advise in writing, if you are not able to accept the offer, in which case, the house will revert to the state.”
In an interview, Elizabeth Tsvangirai told The NewsHawks she had bought the property after her husband’s death as it belonged to the state up to that time.
“I will issue a statement on the issue. I’m currently out of the country. Briefly, it is true we bought the house after my husband’s death. We were government tenants all along then and after his death, they offered to sell it to us as we had the right to first refusal, and we bought it. We will give all the necessary details in the statement.”