via Biti and Gono ‘strange bedfellows’ | SW Radio Africa by Tichaona Sibanda December 18, 2013
An unlikely alliance between former Finance Minister Tendai Biti and ex-governor of the Reserve Bank Gideon Gono has sparked debate in the highly polarized society in Zimbabwe.
Initially viewed as mortal enemies Zimbabweans woke up to news on Wednesday that lawyer Tendai Biti had been hired by Gono to fight allegations made by ZANU PF legislator Munyaradzi Kereke that he was involved in corrupt dealings during his tenure at the central bank.
Kereke filed a petition with the Constitutional Court last week demanding to know why the courts were not taking action against Gono as between 2006 and 2009 his former boss took more than US$37.5 million, R1.4 million and £21,500 from State coffers and converted it to his personal use.
This was also during the period when Biti was both Gono and Kereke’s boss, as Finance Minister. Gono leaves behind a legacy of a record level of hyperinflation and the closure of a dozen banks. In January 2009 the highest Zimbabwean dollar note, $100 trillion, was put into circulation by Gono, signalling the collapse of the economy.
The quasi-fiscal activities he embarked on, such as offering farming implements and inputs to newly resettled black farmers, swung support in key rural strongholds in ZANU PF’s favour. He also raided more than $1billion from foreign currency accounts of citizens and corporations to keep the country going.
This led to the MDC-T calling on Gono to be removed, often leading to bruising battles with Biti, who at one time described the former governor as ‘an economic saboteur, terrorist and number one Al-Qaeda who deserves to be shot by a firing squad.’
On Wednesday many took to social media outlets to register their strong disapproval of Biti. An Australian based pro-democracy activist wrote: ‘So Brother Tendai will be standing in court arguing to the best of his abilities that Cde Gideon Gono is not a thief, is not a money launderer, is not corrupt! For many who look at this as Gono’s faith in the abilities of Tendai, you are wrong. Having Tendai as defense counsel is nothing but making sure that Tendai can no more be witness in any litigation or cases of such nature against Cde Gono (he is now amply disqualified by privilege).’
Other commentators, like Maureen Gombakomba, defended the alliance, saying Gono has the right to chose a lawyer of his own choice, be it Selby Hwacha, Tendai Biti, Jonathan Samkange, or Beatrice Mtetwa.
‘If he chooses a lawyer of his choice it’s because he thinks/knows he is the rightful one for him, there is nothing out of this world over such a decision,’ she said.
But political commentator Munjonzi Mutandiri said it was morally wrong for Biti to represent Gono, when he has acknowledged that he is corrupt.
‘We live with ZANU PF people in our societies – tolerance is not shown by defending evil acts. Soon we will hear an MDC lawyer is representing a ZANU PF murder suspect for the 2008 violence,’ exclaimed Mutandiri.