December 18, 2013
GONO BITITakunda Maodza Assistant News Editor
COMMENT - I've never trusted Gideon 'Crazy Eyes' Gono. He was the one at the helm that oversaw the hyperinflation of the Zimbabwe Dollar. He is also against indigenisation, including of the banks. And now he is defending Tendai Biti? You have to wonder why there is such a relationship of trust between them. As Biti's laywer, Gono would be in a perfect position to screw up his defense. And yet Tendai Biti trusts him to represent him? - MrK
Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono has hired MDC-T secretary-general, the lawyer Mr Tendai Biti to fight allegations made by Zanu-PF legislator Dr Munyaradzi Kereke that he was involved in corrupt dealings during his tenure at the apex bank.Zanu-PF Manicaland Province has nominated Dr Gono to fill the vacant Buhera Senate seat, but his cosy relations with senior MDC-T officials is causing unease about where his allegiances lie.
The seat fell vacant following the death of Cde Kumbirai Kangai on August 24.
Mr Biti was Finance Minister from 2009 to earlier this year and worked directly with Dr Gono.
The two were initially sworn enemies, with Mr Biti calling Dr Gono a terrorist who deserved to be shot, but relations have thawed to the point where the MDC-T secretary-general is giving the former RBZ boss legal representation.
Dr Kereke’s graft allegations, involving millions of US dollars, pertain to the time when both Dr Gono and Mr Biti were in Government. Dr Kereke was for a while one of Dr Gono’s most trusted advisors at the RBZ.
Also cited in the court case, which is before the Constitutional Court, is the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
Dr Gono is accused of compromising the independence of the anti-graft body through cash and other inducements, all sourced from Government coffers.
Zanu-PF Manicaland provincial chairman Cde John Mvundura yesterday confirmed they had forwarded Dr Gono’s candidature for the Buhera seat to a “higher office”.
However, there is much unease within the Zanu-PF leadership about Dr Gono’s suitability.
Documents in our possession show Dr Gono hired Mr Tendai Biti on December 16, 2013 and that Mr Biti has already made representations to the Constitutional Court on the ex-RBZ chief’s behalf.
While some Zanu-PF officials say it is Dr Gono’s right to get legal representation from any lawyer, his choice of Mr Biti has made many others nervous about his loyalty to the party.
Last night, Cde Mvundura said: “We have dealt with the Dr Gono issue and forwarded our recommendations to the party hierarchy. It is now up to the leadership.”
The nomination was endorsed by the Zanu-PF Manicaland provincial co-ordination committee which met at Marymount Teachers College on December 7. It is understood that the nomination is now before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for confirmation.
A senior Zanu-PF official yesterday told The Herald that they were “disturbed” by Dr Gono’s behaviour.
“Dr Gono on Monday hired Biti to represent him in a fraud case in which he and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission will appear before the Constitutional Court. What is disturbing is the fact that this is happening at a time when he (Dr Gono) wants to be Zanu-PF senator for Buhera yet his trust and faith in Biti is so overwhelming,” he said.
Another official said the “party must consider the implications of giving Gono the Buhera seat when he is wining and dining with the enemy”.
“He is determined to undermine the party and its leadership, especially now after his bid to have his term as RBZ Governor extended failed. We ought to be careful with him,” he said.
But party secretary for administration Cde Didymus Mutasa, who is said to be influential in Zanu-PF Manicaland, said there was nothing wrong with Dr Gono’s decision to work with Mr Biti.
“It is his right to look for the best lawyer. If he thinks Biti is the one he wants to pick, it is up to him. Biti practices in Zimbabwe. He practices in Zimbabwean courts and not in South Africa or England. It is up to Gono to choose who he wants to defend him,” Cde Mutasa said.
But a Zanu-PF Politburo member with close ties to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces countered: “We have been told that some people in MDC-T want to besmirch the image of the military and other security servives and they think they can get help from Gono in doing this. We sincerely hope he does not go rogue.”
What is of particular interest is how the Gono-Biti relationship has mellowed. At one point Mr Biti wanted Dr Gono arrested, and today he is helping him avoid jail.
In the early days of the inclusive Government, Mr Biti vigorously on several occasions pestered Sadc to convene an Extraordinary Summit principally to remove Dr Gono and then Attorney-General Mr Johannes Tomana from office.
So bad were their relations that on May 22, 2009 Dr Gono wrote to then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from MDC-T to intervene.
Read part of the letter: “As you may be aware Hon Prime Minister, the strained relations between the Hon Minister of Finance and myself are a matter of public knowledge and, need I say, concern.
“For more than a year now, the minister has uttered, publicly and privately, words and statements that are not only criminally defamatory but also seriously insulting to my person, family and indeed, to the institution that I work for. His misleading statements are also career limiting in my field of finance and economics.
Dr Gono said Mr Biti “accused me of being at the epicentre of (the) Zanu-PF terror machine, an economic saboteur, terrorist and number one Al-Qaeda who deserves to be shot by a firing squad”.
After a year in the inclusive Government, Mr Biti suddenly went mum about Dr Gono.
In 2012, there were reports that Dr Gono helped Mr Tsvangirai access some US$1,5 million to get an official residence as the Prime Minister. At the same time, it is alleged Mr Biti released another US$1 million from Treasury for the same purpose.
The alleged case of double-dipping from State coffers has never been fully made public with all parties involved denying the allegations.
And last month Mr Biti told a radio station, “Gono has the nation at heart although some people wanted to use him and they indeed used him and just dumped him. We first had challenges, but eventually we had a very good working relationship. He had the nation at heart.”