Alex Magaisa 19 February 2017
HARARE – Sometime in 2014, Gideon Gono, the former governor of the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) was within spitting distance of a seat in the
Senate, the upper chamber of Parliament, before it was dramatically
He was the Zanu PF nominee to replace Kumbirai Kangai, who had died not
long after the 2013 election. However, just as he was about to take the
new title, Gono’s ascendancy was brutally thwarted.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) rejected his nomination on the
grounds that he was not registered on the voters’ roll in Manicaland
province, where the seat was vacant. Gono had approached the Office of the
Registrar General (RG) to transfer his registration from Harare to
Zec declared that it was an invalid registration because the RG no longer
had the power to register voters. Zec was right.
But instead of correcting the RG’s error and registering Gono, Zec claimed
that it could not do so until electoral laws were amended to confirm its
new constitutional role. On this, Zec was wrong. They had the power to
register in terms of the Constitution and they could have used it if it
Based on Zec’s refusal, the Zanu PF politburo replaced Gono with another
candidate. With that, Gono’s dream of becoming a senator in Manicaland was
over. Curiously, a few weeks later, Zec announced that it was registering
voters, a perfect somersault given its earlier position on Gono when it
said it had no power. Nothing had changed between the two instances to
justify Zec’s sudden change. It was an intriguing case in which the
positions of Zec and a faction in Zanu PF were curiously aligned against
It seemed there was a faction that did not want to see Gono take the
Senate seat and Zec was complicit in this scheme. That or Zec was simply
incompetent when it dealt with the Gono case before it changed its mind.
It seems Gono was collateral damage in the war of attrition between Zanu
PF factions in 2014 and may have been as an ally of the Mujuru faction.
Rugare Gumbo, who was later fired remained hopeful that the legal issues
would be cleared to ensure Gono’s smooth passage to the Senate, a view
that was extinguished by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa when he
declared that it was a closed chapter. Jonathan Moyo publicly berated Gono
for alleged failure to understand the law.
Interestingly, while Joice Mujuru and her allies were unceremoniously
fired from the party, Gono survived. That might have been due to his
proximity to President Robert Mugabe’s family. But with the Manicaland
senate seat snatched from under his nose, his fortunes waned and he
retreated from the political limelight.
Around the same time that Gono was losing the Senate seat, he was also
under a barrage of attacks from Munyaradzi Kereke, a former loyal
lieutenant at the RBZ. In contrast to his former boss’s political
fortunes, Kereke’s were on the rise.
He had contested the elections in 2013 in defiance of a party directive
and won. He had allegedly been thwarted by the Mujuru faction but had
received backing from the Mnangagwa faction. When the Mujuru faction was
fired from Zanu PF, and with the Mnangagwa faction in charge, Kereke was
readmitted into Zanu PF.
Kereke’s departure from his role as a subordinate of Gono at the RBZ had
been unceremonious and messy. The acrimony led to bad blood between the
two men. Kereke threw all manner of allegations against Gono, including
charges of corruption and inappropriate liaisons.
It was a messy divorce.
In due time, Gono left his post at the RBZ after the end of his 10-year
statutory tenure. Kereke launched cases against Gono and even approached
the Constitutional Court, in pursuit of private prosecution. He claimed to
have vast amounts of evidence that would nail his former boss.
Meanwhile, Kereke’s fortunes dipped in dramatic fashion. He was accused of
raping a minor in 2010, a matter which had been stifled by prosecution
authorities which refused to prosecute him for alleged lack of evidence.
The prosecutor-general, Johannes Tomana, was accused of protecting Kereke,
said to be a political ally.
It was a controversial decision which was challenged by the victim’s
guardians who eventually managed to carry out a successful private
prosecution. Kereke was found guilty of rape. He is now at Chikurubi
Maximum Security Prison, where he is serving a 10-year prison sentence.
It was curious therefore, to keen observers of the Zimbabwean political
scene, that the Kereke-Gono affair was rekindled in recent weeks,
following prominent coverage in The Sunday Mail, the State-owned weekly
newspaper. First, a public apology to Gono by Kereke was given front page
treatment. Two weeks later, Gono’s acknowledgement of the apology received
similar high profile treatment.
What might have prompted the State weekly to bring back into the limelight
two men who had seemingly gone into political oblivion, one by confinement
to jail, and the other, by political banishment?
It is highly unusual that a convicted rapist hogs the front page of a
State weekly – for an apology, not to the victim but to a former boss. It
appeared there was a story behind the story – just what it could be
remains a matter of conjecture.
There has been much speculation as to what might have prompted this
curious exchange between these two men via the State weekly.
One theory is that this could be a well-choreographed act designed to
“cleanse” the former central bank governor in preparation for political
office. It was Kereke after all, who made the high profile allegations and
threatened to expose Gono. The theory is that “cleansed” of the dirt that
Kereke threw at him, Gono would be ready for some political office.
But this theory would be incomplete without the assumption that Gono is
part of the elaborate scheme. Yet, this assumption could be false, as
there are suggestions that Kereke’s apology came as a complete surprise to
Gono. Reading through Gono’s interview, one can observe that his
acknowledgment of Kereke’s apology is qualified, which shows some
hesitation. He does not, for example, undertake to withdraw his own
defamation suit against Kereke. But if Gono is not part of an elaborate
“cleansing” scheme, what else might have triggered Kereke’s apology?
The second theory is that Kereke initiated the apology in pursuit of
self-interest and in response to powerful political forces that he may
It will be recalled that one of Kereke’s claims during his rape trial was
that the allegations were political and that they were designed to punish
him for his allegations against Gono.
After his conviction he has tried, on at least two occasions, to apply for
bail pending appeal. Both times, he has hit a brick wall. Kereke believes
he is suffering political persecution. The apology may be a desperate plea
for mercy. He probably thinks an apology and withdrawal of his allegations
will thaw the hearts of those whom he offended. The apology may therefore
be a plea for forgiveness.
But if it is a plea for forgiveness, to whom is Kereke really apologising?
Gono does not have any legal powers to forgive him, even if he chose to do
so. If it is a plea for forgiveness, it must be a plea directed to a
higher power, which brings the Mugabe family into the equation.
Gono’s proximity to the Mugabe family is well known. Perhaps that is where
the apology is directed. Furthermore, even if it was a plea for
forgiveness, why would the State media grant such a favour to a convicted
There must be thousands of prisoners who would want to make apologies to
other private persons they wronged outside. They would never get space in
a mass circulating paper. Kereke could have written a letter of apology to
Gono. His appearance in the State paper could only have been engineered by
powerful political forces in control of State media.
Nevertheless, a pertinent question is what prompted Kereke to make those
allegations against his former boss in the first place? Has he suddenly
discovered that he was wrong about his former boss? Was he acting on his
own when he went rogue on his old boss?
Gono’s failure to land the senatorial post in Manicaland was arguably down
to powerful political forces in the struggle for succession. Could those
forces have been behind Kereke’s allegations then? Could they be behind
the recent apology, a change in strategy perhaps in light of the
When Kereke attacked Gono, he may have been acting on behalf of political
superiors who might have been disturbed by Gono’s entrance into the
political arena. They achieved their purpose when they thwarted Gono’s
rise to the Senate.
Gono’s proximity to the Mugabe family must be a source of concern to
succession protagonists. There was a time when Gono was the prime minister
in all but name. But if Gono’s political entrance was inconvenient in
2014, what has changed now? Could there be a realignment of political
It should be interesting to see what comes next after the Kereke apology
and Gono’s acknowledgment. The collusion theory has no discernible basis.
While Kereke is motivated by self-interest, his access to State media and
favourable coverage suggests that his apology has more beneficiaries
beyond himself and Gono.
If that is the case, both Kereke and Gono could be mere pawns in an
elaborate and increasingly complex war to succeed Mugabe. It won’t be
surprising if this ritual is a precursor to Kereke’s release from jail or
Gono’s re-emergence on the political arena or indeed, a dramatic
re-configuration of the succession race as it goes to the wire.