AS the cash crunch which Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono blames on cash barons persists, analysts say there is no will or sincerity by the political leadershi
p, law enforcement agencies and the monetary authorities to curb corruption as top officials in these institutions are deeply involved.
They said recent revelations in court that the RBZ allegedly released over $7 trillion to Flatwater Investments to source foreign currency for the purchase of tractors, of which $2,1 trillion was channelled to the black market, was only a tip of the iceberg on how the bank could have been actively involved in illegal foreign currency dealings and fuelling inflation which it should be addressing.
The analysts said the arrest of a Harare woman, Dorothy Mutekede, allegedly found in possession of $10 billion in the new $500 000 bearer cheques soon after their launch in December last year and the subsequent mishandling of the case by the police raise a lot of questions.
Senior detectives who asked not to be named said it was worrying that the Criminal Investigations Department’s Serious Fraud Squad which is responsible for probing high profile white collar crime failed to record the serial numbers of the bearer cheques as a laid down basic procedures on securing evidence.
They said it was equally disturbing that the RBZ, which should naturally have been interested in tracing the source of the cash, merely received the cash from the police and released it back into circulation without any questions asked.
“You can’t have a pot calling a kettle black. There is corruption at the RBZ and the police. This speaks volumes about the lack of professionalism and the laxity in the security systems of the RBZ,” police officers said. “Clearly there are top officials involved and people like Mutekede are just being used as sacrificial lambs because there is no way she could have access to $10 billion.”
Mutekede, who was later fined, named Harare businessman Jonathan Kadzura as the source of the money, an allegation he denied.
A few days later, Guruve North legislator and chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Budget and Finance David Butau, fled the country after police indicated they wanted to question him on allegations of externalising foreign currency.
In a related case, a Harare man, Joseph Manjoro last week pleaded guilty to illegal foreign currency dealings involving $2,1 trillion which he admitted channelling on the black market through Butau and other runners to raise foreign currency for Flatwater Investments which had been contracted by the RBZ to import tractors for the farm mechanisation programme.
The public prosecutor, Tawanda Zvekare, blamed the RBZ for fuelling illegal foreign currency dealings after they “blindly splashed” cash on the Flatwater without verifying its claims of having US$9 million in an offshore account for the purchase of the tractors.
Zvekare has asked the court to order investigations into RBZ dealings.
This comes against the backdrop of Gono’s remarks on television that he was prepared to give information on the cash barons before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Budget and Finance chaired by Butau who, before he fled, said the committee was not in a hurry to summon him over the issue.
The analysts said it was worry-ing that despite Gono’s remarks and calls by concerned stakeholders and general members of the public, the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission to act, there is apparently no meaningful probe to bring culprits to book.
Bulawa-yo-based economic commentators Eddie Cross and Eric Bloch and University of Zimbabwe social commentator John Makumbe, said in separate interviews that the police and the RBZ were obliged to act expeditiously to ensure that culprits were brought to book.
Cross said recent events had clearly shown that there was a deliberate effort to “protect the big fish involved”.
“The problem is that there is rampant corruption within all the institutions that are expected to act. The regime cannot prosecute itself. There is no political will to curb corruption in this country,” said Cross.
“Where did that $10 billion originate from and how many other cash barons had access to the new bearer cheques before they were launched? There is corruption at the highest levels and that is why police did not record serial numbers of the bearer cheques which could have determined where they came from.”
His sentiments were echoed by Bloch who called on the police to get to the bottom of the case.
Bloch said if Gono had evidence on cash barons, he should pass it to the police who should thoroughly investigate the case to ensure prosecution of the suspects.
He however dismissed allegations that the RBZ was buying foreign currency on the black market, adding that it used transparent ways to source foreign currency.
“The RBZ must provide evidence to facilitate investigations to clear its name,” he said. “That $10 billion could have come from the commercial banks. In terms of investigation procedure, the police must know what is required as evidence and the RBZ would not know,” he said.
“If the police deliberately failed to secure the evidence, then a probe must be done and those responsible charged accordingly. Gono should speak to the police who should satisfy themselves with the evidence before the Attorney-General’s Office plays its prosecution role,” Bloch said.
“Naming the barons is not enough. What is needed is the evidence. That’s the story. The police and the Anti-Corruption Commission should probe the cases,” said Bloch.
Makumbe said the RBZ and the Serious Frauds Squad owed the public an explanation on the Flatwater and $10 billion cases.
“We smell a rat. How could the RBZ release over $7 trillion to what we believe to be a shelf company to procure tractors,” he said.
“How did the police and the RBZ fail to record serial numbers of the $10 billion bearer cheques which were intercepted just two days after the launch? Who authorised their disposal?” said Makumbe, adding that even the Finance minister should explain what was happening in his ministry.
He said the failure by the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission to act on Gono’s remarks at the Zanu PF congress in December showed that there was no political will to fight corruption.
He said one would have expected President Robert Mugabe to immediately set up a commission of enquiry “but instead he went to the Far East on his annual vacation without doing anything about it, leaving the country in a dire cash crisis”.
Makumbe said it was interesting to see how the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission would respond to calls by Zvekare for investigations into the operations of the RBZ as well as the police’s negligence in the $10 billion case.
Contacted for comment on how the $10 billion case was handled and whether the investigating officer was being probed, police spokesman Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said he could comment on a matter before the courts.
“That matter was finalised at court. Mutekede was convicted and accordingly fined. As for what is coming from court, I cannot comment on that because it is sub judice,” said Mandipaka.
The Minister of State Enterprises, Anti-Monopolies and Anti-Corruption, Samuel Undenge, said the Anti-Corruption Inter-Agency comprising the police, RBZ and officers from the Ant-Corruption Commission were pursuing the matter.
“The agency is looking into the issues related to the cash barons, RBZ operations and the manner in which the $10 billion case was handled. They are looking into the issue to see if there was negligence or omission by the officers involved in the case,” said Undenge.