GOVERNMENT’S Farm Mechanisation Programme undertaken between 2007 and 2008 was not a loan scheme and beneficiaries were not required to pay for the equipment they received, former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr Gideon Gono has said.
Responding to claims made by opposition activist Dr Alex Magaisa yesterday, which alleged that millions of dollars in public funds were looted by beneficiaries of the programme who refused to pay for the equipment they received through the central bank, Dr Gono said the programme was undertaken in accordance with the law.
The RBZ introduced the programme to capacitate newly-resettled farmers through mechanisation.
In a statement last night, Dr Gono refuted allegations raised by Dr Magaisa, saying there was no impropriety on the part of the RBZ and the beneficiaries.
“My statement comes in the wake of Dr Magaisa’s allegations, which makes a lot of unfounded allegations and inaccurate, and unfair conclusions that border on defamation,” said Dr Gono.
“I come as the man who was in charge of the RBZ during the most trying period in our history and as a man who was at the centre of trying to keep the economy going.
“I can state categorically that Dr Magaisa is offside and that no beneficiary of the farm mechanisation programme ever refused to pay for the equipment that they got and neither were they asked to pay.”
Dr Gono said this position was arrived at after consultations with Government which took the decision and wrote to him that equipment given to farmers during that most trying period should not be regarded as a loan to anyone and, therefore, no payment was to be made by the beneficiaries of the programme, who included A2 and A1 farmers.
He said the programme was undertaken in terms of the standing provisions of the RBZ Act at the time, which compelled the Apex Bank to carry out quasi-fiscal activities at the request of Government.
“The RBZ undertook this quasi-fiscal activity at the behest of Government and in the national interest,” said Dr Gono.
“This was done in accordance with the then Section 8 of the RBZ Act Chapter (22:15) which authorised State to direct the Central Bank to carry out transactions in such a manner as the State may require and if so requested by the State, the Bank was to make the necessary arrangements to this end.”
The Sunday Mail understands that Dr Gono reached out to Dr Magaisa via WhatsApp yesterday, raising his displeasure with the “defamatory” article.
In a string of text messages seen by this publication, the former central bank chief questioned Dr Magaisa’s motive behind cherry-picking the names of beneficiaries that he published.
Dr Magaisa had not responded to the text by the time of going to print last night.
“My brother, your article of today is so unlike you to make such damning conclusions without checking and clarifying with the one man (alive) who was in charge of the RBZ-driven Farm Mechanisation Programme 2007/8,” charged Dr Gono.
“I thought that since I’m alive and surely capable of enlightening anyone with interest in matters that happened under my watch … a simple phone call or WhatsApp to verify the authenticity and background to the issues of your interest would have served everyone from all the wrong interpretations and erroneous, defamatory conclusions contained in your BSR.
“You are usually very careful with your facts and I wonder what happened here? Anyway, I hope that you will have the courage to tell your readers the facts of the matter as I shall put them down and apologise for tarnishing their images before getting all the facts that allow anyone to form their own opinions.
“Out of civility and good courtesy, I will share with you the true facts then you will see how wrong your assertions of fraud, corruption and looting are. On this one, you definitely got your facts wrong. I unsuccessfully tried to reach you earlier when I saw the article.”
Dr Gono said as the RBZ chief then, he was compelled to abide by the provisions of all relevant legal provisions governing the operations of the Central Bank.
“Section 8 (11) of the old RBZ Act (Chapter 22:15) read with the Banking Act (Chapter 24:20), the Official Secrets Act (Chapter11:09), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Chapter 20:27) and the Exchange Control Act of 1996 are all legislative and legal administrative instruments at the hands of a Government to use to achieve certain desired objectives. Any Governor worth his salt works within the confines of those and other Acts to advance Government objectives.”
He said at independence, the new Zimbabwean Government also assumed loans that had been incurred by the settler regime, and likely for nefarious undertakings against indigenous people.
“At independence, the RBZ and Government in general assumed loans and obligations that had been incurred by the previous regime, some of which had been used to acquire military equipment that maimed and killed our people as well as agricultural loans that had been taken with State guarantees from banks during those difficult years.
“None of these belonged to blacks. Today, under a legitimate Government Mechanisation Programme that covered both A1 and A2 farmers during a very difficult period in the history of our nation becomes a scandal?
“Both rural and non-rural farmers benefited from the takeover of the loans by the State but I shall elaborate. There was no scandal here, no corruption and no beneficiary refused to pay. The State did not demand payment and that was above board.”