Grace-Gonogate: Gono turns up the heat on RBZ rival

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) deputy board chairman Charles Kuwaza is under intense pressure to resign from the central bank as his boardroom fight with his boss Gideon Gono reaches a fever pitch.

The battle between Gono and Kuwaza intensified this week, with the two getting sucked in a bizarre new twist to the controversial story which was recently published by the South African edition of the Sunday Times, which said that President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace had an affair with Gono.

In an interview with veteran journalist Geoff Nyarota (The Zimbabwe Mail), Kuwaza admitted that the Gono-Grace affair story could have been a "hatchet job" by his "sympathisers", who were angry over his recent arrest by police on allegations of corruption.

Kuwaza, a former senior official of the ministry of finance and board member of several state-owned companies, says he was arrested on Gono’s orders. Kuwaza’s arrest in September had remained unknown until this week. Gono denies any involvement.

RBZ insiders said on Friday Kuwaza was now under immense pressure to resign after his arrest and the interview with Nyarota in which he seemed to indicate that his supporters could have come up with the story of Gono sleeping with Grace to avenge for his arrest. Kuwaza described the Gono-Grace story as a mixture of "facts, half-truths and absolute lies", indicating he knew something about the origins of the article. Kuwaza has, however, denied being the source of the story.

"Kuwaza is under pressure to resign for several reasons. Firstly he was arrested on September 19 for alleged corruption at the State Procurement Board and that has piled pressure on him to go. Mugabe’s office wants him to resign. Secondly his interview with Nyarota has angered Mugabe, his wife and Gono. They now think Kuwaza actually leaked the story to Jon Swain and the Sunday Times as part of his acrimonious fight with Gono," a senior RBZ official said.

"The other reason for Kuwaza to resign is purely legal. Kuwaza sits on the RBZ board as deputy chairman while he is also chairman of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. On top of that he is also chairman of the State Procurement Board. In terms of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act, Kuwaza is not supposed to be deputy board chairman of the central bank as long as he remains on the boards of other statutory bodies."

Gono has denied being behind Kuwaza’s arrest, saying he only heard about it in a board meeting when his deputy raised the matter.

The bitter fight between Gono and Kuwaza has become even more entangled, as the latter now thinks the former wants to oust him through intimidation and pressure.

Gono and Kuwaza’s rumbling war of attrition has been dramatic, involving public spats and snooping.

Details of a secret government document, entitled Operation Kuwaza and recently seen by the Sunday Times, show that the Reserve Bank and state security services have been monitoring Kuwaza for several months and have now concluded he wanted to get rid of Gono.

The document details incidents that Gono and his allies believe show that Kuwaza was working with unnamed senior ministers to remove Gono. Finance Minister Tendai Biti is close to Kuwaza as they play chess together. Gono has ironically appealed to Biti to rein in Kuwaza.

Internal memos have been flying back and forth between Gono, Kuwaza and Biti over the issue.

Kuwaza has warned Gono and his "unlawfully employed adviser Munyaradzi Kereke" to avoid turning the central bank into a "red light district" and a "gravy train", while the latter has accused the former of "destabilisation of the bank, witch-hunting and overbearing behaviour." – Sunday Times