Biti Foils a Massive Gono Scandal – By Levy Mhaka

OPINION – By announcing the immediate encashment of civil servants government forex vouchers, the new Minister of Finance Tendai Biti, may have foiled the takeover of NetOne through Innscor Africa Limited and the "printing" of forex by Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor.

When the 3 political parties where battling to have an agreement, there were some offices in which some people were working day and night to ensure it does not happen. One of these offices is that of Gono.

His hands with clasped in anticipation that the 3 protagonists do not agree on anything or that the coalition government should not function well.

Fast forward to the time the Cabinet was sworn in, the new Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, announced on 18th February 2009 that 130,000 Zimbabwean civil servants will receive US$100 in allowances per month.

He was quoted saying, “With immediate effect all vouchers issued to civil servants as allowances would be redeemable as cash at designated banks.

With effect from March 2009 payment to civil servants will be done directly into their bank accounts and therefore the voucher payment scheme will cease.

We want to promote a savings culture again that is why we have included the bank .”

This was a great improvement if we are to compare with the US$600 per month teachers earn in South Africa. Other professionals in South Africa earn US$2,000 (professional or rated engineers); and US$1,500-2,200 (university lecturers with MSc/PhD degrees).

Biti told reporters that he and not the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono was in charge of the public purse (Treasury) after he was asked as to who was in charge of government coffers. “

It is a constitutional provision that the Consolidated Revenue Fund is run by the Minister of Finance and only kept at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. It is run by the Finance Minister, ” he said.

So when Finance Minister took this decision of encashment of vouchers, he destroyed a grand scheme that had been hatched by Gono, which was literally the "printing" of forex.

In the fuel industry, a lot of companies are printing and selling fuel vouchers twice more than the capacity of what they can import.

For example, where the company is to import 10,000 litres of fuel, it sells 15-20,000 litres worth of fuel vouchers. It is thus effectively printing forex and the fuel coupons are a mode of exchange just like money.

From a financing point of view, the government forex vouchers were printed and issued by the RBZ. Thus Gono was to be the forex “printer” after destroying the Zimbabwean currency!

The vouchers were redeemable as cash and one was to buy only from only designated shops and he had reached an agreement with publicly listed Innscor Africa Limited, where he is alleged to be a shareholder or has an alleged incestous relationship with the major shareholders who also form part of the executive management.

Earlier on from September 2008, the forex licensing was fast tracked for the trading entities in this group.

Since these government forex vouchers were not going to be redeemed, Innscor was to be stuck with the vouchers without Gono settling them. The heavy debt was to be unsettled for some time until such a time that Innscor was to threaten litigation over the heavy debt.

The grand scheme was then to “sell” NetOne to Innscor to pay off the debt. The ultimate beneficiary of the “sale” of NetOne was Gono.

There was unconfirmed talk in Harare of NetOne having been sold to a foreign buyer to raise government salaries in forex. This could explain why Finance Minister Biti was quick to ensure that Innscor is not the sole beneficiary of government ‘forex’.

Unbeknown to Minister Biti, parastatals, universities, the RBZ, ZANU PF and a number government-related entities paid their staffers using the same government forex vouchers.

If this scheming by Gono is known to the Finance Ministry, it is expected that the Finance Ministry will do a forensic audit of all the forex vouchers printed and issued since the Finance Ministry is in NOW charge of the public purse.

This scheming by Gono can easily be linked as to why Webster Shamu has been making attempts to encroach into a State-owned Enterprise, NetOne, that lies within the Ministry of Information Technology and Communication, headed by Nelson Chamisa.

Shamu’s interest goes beyond the interception concerns. Shamu has always been a protégé of Gono and George Charamba. He lacks his own pedigree.

He is no different from the late Tony Gara, a praise singer and hero worshipper!

Following the turn of events, Gono is alleged to have met President Mugabe to explain himself and is claimed that he advised him that the wolves (Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime MinisterArthur Mutambara and Finance Minister Tendai Biti) are not after "Your Governor" but wish to destroy "Your Excellency" through Gono.

"Your Governor" is alleged to have made sure that the President felt very vulnerable if Gono is asked to step down because he will be having very hostile people around him since there is a good chance that his replacement at the RBZ will not be a patronizing one.

If its true, Gono may have "transfered" all his insecurities and worries to make them President’s. This claim could be linked to President Mugabe’s remarks he made during the birthday interview with ZBC.

He said the creation of the unity government would not nullify the statutory appointments he made before the inauguration of the new regime.

He was adamant that the appointments had been made legally and that the individuals occupying the various offices were suitable for their respective jobs. “I do not see any reason why those people should go and they will not go.”

Listen President Mugabe very carefully when he speaks anything finance and economical. He has a noticeable Gono-speak.

Mutumwa Mawere said it well on his blog, "President Mugabe took the criticism of Gono by Biti and Mutambara personally and his expectation is that such criticisms must not be ventilated in public." Interesting times!!!

Previous articles and more by the author are found on www.levi-mhaka.blogspot.com