Gono and the Zanufication of the state – By Mutumwa Mawere

OPINION – On 20 April 2009, Dr. Gono in defence of the controversial quasi-fiscal operations published a 20-page supplement in the Herald whose contents raises more questions than answers.\r\n

Zimbabweans now know that the RBZ was an owner of vehicles that it did not need for its own operations.

Although it is common cause that during Gono’s first term, the constitution of Zimbabwe was not suspended to allow the distinction between the state and the RBZ to evaporate, it is significant that only a few wise men were privy to the allocation of state resources and to the apparent hiding of state assets on the books of the RBZ.

When accusations were made that Gono had effectively transformed the RBZ into a super state, no one had an idea including the last parliament of the extent of the operations that are not only offensive but had the effect of undermining the democratic constitutional order.

It is instructive that in framing the GPA, ZANU-PF was careful to ensure that a universal acceptance of the fact that Zimbabwe was under a sanctions regime should be the starting point. Once this fact was accepted by all the parties, it became necessary to locate the quasi-fiscal operations in context. The only context Gono wanted and got is that the RBZ was forced by the sanctions regime to undertake activities that ordinarily would not be permissible under a democratic constitutional order.

Gono’s defence as expected is that he was a victim and had to do what he did in the defence of the motherland including breaking the very laws that he selectively sought to apply and enforce.

It has now been disclosed after the event that funds totalling US$1.2 billion were disbursed but not yet refunded during the period of madness. It was not clear from Gono’s statements what the terms and conditions under which such funds were disbursed.

At the very least the nation must be informed as to how the peoples’ funds were allocated and who precisely was involved in making the decisions to allow the funds belonging to the people to be allocated with no transparency.

The mere fact that Gono chose to inform the nation through a paid newspaper supplement must worry anyone who believes in democracy.

One would have expected a regularisation of the illegal and unconstitutional extra-budgetary allocation to be the first order of business of the inclusive government. This would have then allowed the Minister of Finance to inform the public appropriately.

The foreign currency allocated to state-owned and controlled institutions under opaque conditions totalled US$2.1 billion. It is not clear how the funds were allocated and more importantly what the terms and conditions were.

Parastatals are juristic persons and their control is vested in their boards. Any borrowings by parastatals have to be processed and channelled through official channels. What is evident is that decisions during the dark period were made by one individual i.e. Gono on who got what and when.

In his defence, he will and has argued that he was issued with instructions to make the funds available. However, public funds do not belong to Gono or the RBZ and, therefore, should have been allocated as prescribed in law.

Although Gono has persecuted many for alleged externalisation, it is now evident that he was the chief culprit.

It appears that his actions were indemnified by some power that is still to be exposed in the interests of the nation getting to grips with the absurdity of the manner in which the state became a football for the powerful and well-connected.

We also now know that a few private sector companies benefited from direct foreign currency allocations in the amount of US$13.7 million.

The controversial vehicles mischievously allocated to legislators are part of the assets that were allegedly procured by the RBZ on behalf of the government notwithstanding the fact that there is no paper trail to confirm the contractual relationship between the government and the RBZ in respect of such assets.

It is significant to note that the RBZ is not the government and, therefore, one would need to have an agency agreement between the two parties setting out the terms and conditions under which the RBZ would represent the government.

Agricultural equipment, a minimum of 1,400 vehicles including cars allocated to the President and cabinet members, computers and office equipment were procured by the RBZ under opaque conditions. Gono did not even bother to inform the nation on the value of the assets so purchased.

It would not be surprising to establish that the value may have been inflated and more importantly the identity of the contracting parties of the RBZ. Who was on the value chain? The nation needs to know the identity of the few who got so much without going through a public tender process.

Unless one has something to hide, there is no reason that Gono would find it fit to withhold such vital information especially when it is common cause that public resources must be allocated in a transparent and open manner.

At this juncture it is only fair that I share my own personal experience during the dark years. On 6 September 2004, SMM Holdings Private Limited (SMM), a company that is ultimately beneficially owned by me was placed under state control on allegations that it was state indebted.

What is significant is that in the decree that was promulgated by President Mugabe using state of emergency powers there was no definition of what the state means other than an attempt to make the state retrospectively defined as the RBZ, ZIMRA, ZESA and all state owned institutions.

Using this broad definition, it was then possible for the state to unilaterally assume the rights of separate and distinct institutions hence the law was subsequently enacted under the name: "The Reconstruction of State Indebted Insolvent Companies Act 2004" notwithstanding the fact that the state is not a contracting party. If the state is not a contracting party, how can one be indebted to it?

It would not be surprising if the funds that RBZ allegedly disbursed to nameless and faceless institutions includes funds advanced to SMM after the takeover of the company.

In the interests of advancing the interests of the inclusive government, it is now evident that the nation may never know how its funds were allocated and disbursed unless citizens demand to know.

The right to know in any democratic constitutional order is vested in the people in whose interests the state is organised to serve. It cannot be acceptable that Gono can be allowed to pontificate with impunity.

At the very minimum, one would expect the RBZ to fully account for its operations especially if such actions were undertaken in the name of the state. What is ironic is that the focus is now on who should allocated vehicles to legislatures and not on making the RBZ accountable for its actions.