Gold Trust takes Reserve Bank to court

Augustine Mukaro

A DISPUTE has erupted between the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and employees of its subsidiary, the Gold Mining and Minerals Development Trust, amid allegations that the central bank reneg

ed on its promise to reconstitute the trust and pay the employees.

The trust’s employees have taken the RBZ to the High Court to resolve the standoff. The court case is set for today. It has also gone to arbitration. The trust is seeking to force the RBZ to pay employees their salaries from July last year to date. Trustees allege the RBZ has not honoured its obligation to pay employees on the basis that governor Gideon Gono had dissolved the trust in February.

The trust was created by the RBZ in 2001 as a corporate body mandated to utilise capital and income from a fund for gold mining and minerals development in the country. Its mandate was to promote and develop environmentally friendly exploitation of minerals. It was also tasked with buying gold from the miners to curb illegal trade in the mineral.

Since Gono took over as governor in December 2003, he has insisted on dissolving the trust arguing that it had not properly accounted for funds disbursed to it.

The trustees however said dissolving the trust was reached on the understanding that it would be reconstituted to meet RBZ and government requirements.

“Gono enticed the trustees to dissolve the trust and reconstitute it with a new focus that conforms to RBZ and government thinking,” one of the trustees said.

“The new-look trust was to exclude the element of gold and would be called the Mining and Minerals Development Trust. The changeover was not going to affect the operations of the trust, as the cancellation of the old trust deed and the registration of a new one were going to take place simultaneously.”

The trustees now allege that there was no progress towards registration of the new trust deed even after making numerous follow-ups.

“The new deed was reportedly submitted to Gono for signing in April but up to now it has not been signed,” the trustees said.

The RBZ last funded the trust in March 2004 and was due to fund the trust’s budget on changeover in April through to December. The budget has not been released, leading to the employees going without salaries when the trust’s coffers ran dry in July 2004.

The trustees said until December 13 last year the RBZ never came out in the open on the winding up of the trust.

“RBZ has only been making promises to register the new deed and to map out a way forward for the trust, following which budget disbursements would be made,” the trustees said.

A lawyer representing the employees, Naison Machingauta, confirmed the standoff.

“The matter has been referred to arbitration and is scheduled to be heard anytime this month,” Machingauta said.

The trust’s finance and administration manager Peter Sai also confirmed the standoff saying the employees had made representations to no avail.