Parly to grill Gono over cash barons

Constantine Chimakure/Loughty Dube



SENIOR Zanu PF politicians are reportedly pushing for the setting up of a cabinet committee to probe the Reserve Bank amid growing rep

orts that it was actively involved in foreign currency and gold dealings on the black market.


This comes after a decision by the parliamentary portfolio committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development to summon central bank boss Gideon Gono next week to appear before it and reveal names of senior politicians and government officials he alleged were involved in money laundering.


Gono will also be asked to explain the central bank’s accounting systems.


Impeccable sources in Zanu PF said a faction led by retired army general Solomon Mujuru wanted Gono and the RBZ probed for their alleged involvement in black market activities as part of “sanctions bursting”.


The sources said the Mujuru camp was not happy that Gono was blaming senior politicians and government officials for hoarding cash for speculative purposes when the central bank was also culpable.


“The politicians will push cabinet to come up with a committee to find out to what extent Gono and the central bank are involved on the parallel market,” one of the sources said. “They want to stop once and for all Gono’s blame game.”


The Mujuru faction, the source said, was in the process of compiling a dossier detailing how the central bank was active on the underground market.


“The dossier will reveal the RBZ’s runners and how they have been conducting their business. It will bare all,” another source said.


The sources said the RBZ was buying foreign currency through individual runners, commodity broking companies and banks to finance the agricultural mechanisation programme, service power debts and other government-related projects in need of hard currency.


Last year, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce revealed that the RBZ had bought foreign currency on the parallel market to settle Zesa and Air Zimbabwe foreign debts.


The central bank also allegedly buys gold from illegal dealers to prop up its reserves that have been in decline over the past nine years.


Gono this week said anyone with information that he and the central bank were involved in illegal activities should report to the police.


“If the governor has skeletons in his cupboard which he cannot explain to the relevant authorities, the law must take its course but let’s not speculate,” Gono told a media conference on Monday.


“Where I cannot explain to the authorities or police, let’s get on with it and allow the law to take its course. I am no exception to this exercise where all of us have to be accountable if called upon to do so.”


Gono is also on record denying that the RBZ was active on the black market.


A member of the parliamentary finance committee, MDC lawmaker for Nkayi, Abedinico Bhebhe, told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that they agreed to summon Gono since he “has some explanations to do to the nation”.


He said the committee would sit in the absence of its chairperson, Guruve North MP David Butau, believed to have fled to the UK after police said they wanted to interview him on allegations of breaching exchange control regulations.


“When parliament resumes sitting next week, the committee will convene a meeting and choose an acting chairperson before inviting Gono to appear before it,” Bhebhe said. “We also want Gono to explain security systems at the central bank.”


He said Gono as a public officer should name and shame “chefs” he alleged were involved in money laundering and other corrupt activities.


“Gono will have to name in front of the committee all the senior politicians and the cash barons on the RBZ list that he claims he has. The RBZ has to be accountable to the people and Gono has no right to delay releasing such vital information. The publication of the list will enable the law enforcement agents to act on the information.”


Bhebhe said the committee wanted Gono to account in detail on how security systems at the bank operate and for him to explain how huge sums of the new bearer cheques were found in the possession of a Harare woman barely three days after their introduction.


“He has to explain the system of accounting for all printed money and how the money is disbursed to financial institutions,” Bhebhe said.


Police last week arrested a Harare woman, Dorothy Primrose Mutekede, who was in possession of $10 billion in $500 000 bearer cheques, when the daily maximum withdrawals for individuals are $50 million and $100 million for corporates.


Mutekede named Harare businessman Jonathan Kadzura as the source of the money. However, Kadzura denied the allegation.


Gono told an extraordinary congress of Zanu PF last month that Zimbabwe’s cash crisis was a result of hoarding by cash barons. He said the barons were senior politicians and government officials actively involved in foreign currency dealings.


Less than a week after Gono’s pronouncement, police said they wanted to interview Butau on allegations of contravening exchange control regulations.


Butau then reportedly fled to the UK, where he told the Zimbabwe state media that Gono instigated his investigation after his committee started probing Gono on graft allegations.


Police reportedly wanted to interview Butau in connection with the payment of £573 000 to a United States company, Michigan Tractors, last November.


The money was allegedly from Butau’s personal account with HSBC Bank in the Channel Islands.


Bhebhe refused to comment on whether the committee was investigating Gono or not and said the public should await the outcome of its meeting with the central bank boss next week.