BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
FORMER Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono has said the farm mechanisation programme he presided over was not part of the debt taken over by government and passed on the taxpayer via the Debt Assumption Act of 2015.
He said this in response to United Kingdom-based lawyer and academic Alex Magaisa, who in a hard-hitting blog on Saturday indicated that Gono dished out millions of public funds to senior Zanu PF and government officials in loans that were never repaid.
Magaisa alleged that senior government and Zanu PF officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accessed millions in United States dollars from the central bank between 2007 and 2008 through the programme.
In a lengthy response sent out on Sunday night, Gono, however, denied the allegations saying the Debt Assumption Act only covered an RBZ legacy debt from 1976 to 2001 when he was not yet at the bank.
He only became RBZ governor in 2003.
Gono claimed the part of the debt covered by the Act during his tenure was not linked to the mechanisation programme, but money borrowed by government for ministers’ cars, fuel and chemicals among other expenses.
“It was interesting to note that 24% of the debt taken over ($309,9m) was from period 1976/7 to 2001 and the balance of 78% ($962,1m) was for the 10-year period that I was governor of the RBZ, with $578,9m (60%) of that amount being borrowed for fuel and electricity, $294,5m (31%) for maize, fertilisers, chemicals and seed, $24,3m (2,5%) going to cars for ministries and special programmes like Bacossi [Basic Commodities Supply Side Intervention], $26,5m (2,8%) being used for mineral audits by an international firm of experts and $7,5m (1%) being borrowed to meet mandatory retrenchment packages in 2011/12. Tobacco farmers accrued support stood at $22,5m (2%) and health and interest claims stood at $7,9m (1%),” Gono said.
“It is important to also state upfront that I had already retired and left the bank in 2013 when the Debt Assumption Bill was crafted and gazetted in 2014 and subsequently passed into law in 2015. I cannot, therefore, be accused of having had a hand in its crafting or make-up two years after retiring. I have analysed what is in the public domain and used my knowledge and documentation of facts to arrive at what I have just given out,” he said.
Gono also said contrary to Magaisa’s claims that he had kept details of the farm mechanisation scheme tightly concealed, he had actually sought to divulge the information in Parliament, but was denied the opportunity to do so.
“I tried to ask the (Parliamentary) Portfolio Committee (on Finance and Budget) chair Hon David Chapfika in 2014/15 to allow me to come and explain to Parliament, but was denied the opportunity because I was now retired and he went on a tangent, thereby creating the erroneous impression that the RBZ debt takeover was about farm mechanisation when, in fact, there was never and there not a single line on that debt-takeover schedule that refers to farm mechanisation debt of the figure often talked about,” he said.