Gideon Gono bares his soul – Full interview transcript
Sunday Mail Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni last week interviewed former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono to find out if he had accepted the apology offered by his ex-advisor, Munyaradzi Kereke, about two weeks ago.
Dr Gono says he has accepted the apology, but is evidently hurt by Kereke’s allegations that the former RBZ chief had looted millions of State dollars during his tenure. Dr Gono narrates how he was deserted by fellow bankers, and how the whole matter has injured his family and businesses. Read on …
Q: It’s almost two weeks since Dr Kereke apologised to you for hurting and harming your character and reputation through falsehoods that painted you as a very corrupt person who looted millions of funds from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe during your tenure as Governor. Why has it taken you this long to respond? The issue of forgiveness is covered extensively in the Bible … (interruption)
A: Listen, listen , listen young man (visibly irritated); don’t come here to patronise me or try to show off your Bible knowledge. You cannot start this interview, by lecturing to me on deadlines and timeframes or moralising a humongous iniquity perpetrated against me for five years and you expect me to drop everything else and run to give you a response.
You come here trying to make me feel guilty for not quickly rushing to respond. I hope that you are not going to misquote me because while to you this is just another story, to me this is a matter of life and death …
Q: Sure doc, I see the gravity of the matter. Is this how much this whole Kereke-saga has hurt you?
A: Well, let me answer you by quoting from Shakespeare: “A good name in man and woman, dear lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls. (He) who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; … ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; … But he that filches from me my good name, robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed…”
This passage in Othello explains that to filch from someone his good name is a much more serious crime than stealing his purse. Honour is an essential possession, something that can belong to you and you only. Your money, on the other hand, is mere trash.
MH: Yes doc, I fully understand. We are not putting pressure on you. We are just saying many people didn’t think you would take this long to respond?
A: You come here to talk and complain of just two weeks that I have taken to consider the impact of Kereke’s statement and that’s supposed to be a catastrophe? Come on be serious! Just Google my name and see …What comes up is not the history of my 40 years of working to date but false corruption scandals.
I was in Kenya recently following up on some funding. I was almost arrested when there was a mix-up of personalities exacerbated by a quick Google check that showed I was scandal-ridden.
Fortunately somebody intervened on my behalf and vouched for the innocence of my presence and trip there. That’s how damaged goods my name had become prior to Dr Kereke’s retraction and apology.
Q: Oh is that so? Sorry to hear about that. Now do you forgive Dr Kereke?
A: My friend, it’s not for me alone to forgive him. His lies did hurt many people around me from family to friends and workmates, including my former bankers some of whom could be heard in their boardrooms agitating for the foreclosure of my loan facilities and displaying amazing hostility towards me and my family, and taking even my 12-year-old son to court for scandal-ridden-dad’s sins.
Q: Did it go that far? I’m sure our publication of Dr Kereke’s public apology and your response will help?
A: Well, since when did you or your stable last cover me positively let alone find it worthy to come and talk to me? Isn’t you all took positions as did many others in favour of your former board member Kereke and chose his corner, together with ZBC-TV whose blatant hatred of me since I left the RBZ found expression in hurrying to publish falsehoods without even attempting to check the other side of the story?
Q: In our profession we normally don’t talk about colleagues in other media establishments … (interruption).
Dr Gono: No, no, no. There should be no sacred cows here. Do you recall their screaming headlines against me each time Kereke made accusations?
Do you recall the publication at most prime times throughout this saga, and one report they did on 12 December 2013 on the eve of the Zanu-PF Conference in Chinhoyi? And several others?
Come on, what are you talking about, trying to gag me for complaining about their unprofessional conduct towards me?
You just don’t understand the gravity of this development; that’s why you are all over trying to cover this one and that one. Unless you have the patience to understand where I’m coming from, let’s stop this interview right now.
Q: No, no, no. I was not trying to do a PR job for our colleagues at ZBC-TV. I was just saying maybe they should come and talk to you and you air your grievances directly to them …
A: Anyway, lest we digress from why you are here. Let me give you and your readers some background and refresh your memories. And by the way, I was out of the country when this story broke, so I have not delayed with my response.
Your diary and deadlines are for you and your bosses at The Sunday Mail, not me. I don’t work for Zimpapers.
Q: There is really no need for all this. You need to calm down. We are only trying to establish if you have accepted your former advisor’s apology and plea for forgiveness. Has he really withdrawn all the cases that he had filed at the courts accusing you of one misdemeanor after another?
A: For the record, I only got to know last week that Dr Kereke has all along, since October, 2016, been seeking, through his lawyers, to communicate and engage with me.
I wasn’t aware of those overtures until a letter was delivered to my home by his first wife and his only wife that I know, on 16 January, 2017.
The letter was surprisingly cordial in its contents and had dearie messages to me and my family, wishing us all compliments of the season and blessings throughout our lives.
I was taken aback by such cordiality and started to ask where this was coming from and why, when in fact, we had never met or spoken since 2012.
Q: Is that so?
A: Yes, that’s the position. Dr Kereke’s wife revealed that a number of letters of apology and pleas for reconciliation, accompanied by withdrawals of all his cases against me at the courts had been done and that some were already in the process of being withdrawn.
I was told that the withdrawals were being done as a sign of goodwill and out of his own volition partly to clear his own conscience and secondly to show the new, born-again Kereke that he now was.
It was revealed that all these processes had been attended to by his lawyers, with copies forwarded to my own lawyers – not Tendai Biti by the way – and that Dr Kereke had even sent me birthday wishes on the eve of my 29 November birthday.
But none of all these overtures had met with any acknowledgement or response from me and he wondered why.
I was very surprised to hear all these developments and sought copies of all the alleged correspondence from my lawyers. It turned out that my lawyers had overlooked passing those letters and case withdrawals to me.
Q: And when you finally saw the letters what did you do?
A: Before I could entertain any further contact with Dr Kereke and his family, I demanded a public apology through the same channels or platforms that he had used to propagate his falsehoods in the first place if indeed he was sincere.
Q: But Dr Kereke told me that you had cleared the grey areas by communicating through your lawyers and at family level?
A: The answers or responses he attributes to me in his apology are a matter of public record. My 7 February, 2014 answering affidavits and heads of argument filed as part of my response papers to the courts, (Case No CCZ 120/2013 comprising of 788 pages), which responses were also delivered to his lawyers in 2014, and dealt with all his allegations blow by blow may have enlightened him a lot.
Therefore I can only surmise, deduce or speculate without evidence that maybe he only got time to read my 2014 responses now and realised that he was seriously off the mark when he made those allegations in the first place.
Q: So have you seen those case withdrawals in person and are you satisfied that they are genuine since you guys seem to have what one can call trust issues?
A: Had I not seen actual date-stamped evidence of Dr Kereke’s court withdrawals to all his fictitious cases against me, I would not be entertaining this interview with you or anyone for that matter.
My little knowledge of the law would have told me to stay clear of discussing anything before the courts. I think the learned ones refer to it as the principle of sub judice.
Q: In the same vein, I recall you had filed two defamation of character cases in 2012, one for US$25 million and the other for US$20 million as a protestation of what we now know were false accusations. Have you withdrawn these cases and if so, when and what got you to withdraw the cases before trial?
A: Your biggest problem is that you lump too many questions under one subheading and that tends to confuse simpleminded people like me; but let me try to answer you logically and factually.
Number one, I have already said that I only learnt of the case withdrawals last week and I was out of the country. Two, I have yet to meet my lawyers for advice in respect of that development and if it was my wish, I would echo Kereke’s sentiments and let bygones be bygones regardless of the expense I went into and anguish suffered in the process.
But then, this matter, like I said, has ceased to be a Gideon Gono matter alone. There are those many who have stood by me throughout this ordeal and that includes not just my family but many people across church, social, business, labour and the political divide.
I also have to seek guidance from these people and once I am done with my phone calls, I will sit down with my lawyers and give them instructions.
But I do not see any of these respected personalities urging me to do otherwise than withdraw and forgive. My former workmates in the Reserve Bank also deserve a call from me.
Q: Ok. Do you remember, what were Dr Kereke’s last words to you in 2012 when you last spoke?
A: Dr Kereke’s parting words to me in February, 2012 were “be guaranteed of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) as a reward for what you have done to me”.
I did not know what he had in mind through his MAD strategy except that it surely became a real “MAD-man’s” show which ended in a self-destruction.
Q: In all that Dr Kereke did to tarnish your image and assassinate your character under this so-called MAD strategy, at whose behest or who do you think was behind his machinations?
A: Well, I don’t think there was anyone behind him. He was just a bitter lone ranger.
Of course many theories of association have been bandied around but I have no proof of such outside influence and if there was, I can’t say.
As far as I am concerned Dr K, as we affectionately called him, was on a one-sided MAD strategy playing with people’s minds and emotions around topical subjects like corruption to achieve the destructive part of his strategy.
You see, Huni, with corruption charges, proof is the last in a sequence of events that tarnish people’s images.
Often public perception is so quickly influenced by sensationalism and the process towards securing justice is painfully slow.
Having false allegations hanging over someone for five years is a little too much to bear. It invites political speculation. I was never afraid of investigations by any competent authority as my documentation was all there and in order.
Q: During all this time, and as the allegations were flying left-right-and-centre, what was your relationship like with your principals? Surely you must have had occasion to talk about this in the course of your interactions?
A: Sure, these allegations dated back to the time when Mr Tendai Biti was the Minister of Finance and I reported the goings on to him and to His Excellency the President. I also appraised the (RBZ) board, my family and friends.
Feeling a little frustrated, at one stage in June 2012 I wrote a petition to His Excellency the President requesting him to set up a commission of inquiry in terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act to investigate all the allegations that were being made against me as a sitting governor.
But His Excellency, in his wisdom, and contrary to my expectations, did not even respond to my letter and we carried on as if nothing was the case. Tell me Huni, how many people scream and refuse to be investigated for even the slightest of accusations in this country and beyond?
The purpose of writing to the President for the commission of inquiry was that if any of the allegations were proven to be true, I would immediately resign from the RBZ.
Minister Biti too, had at some stage been a victim of Dr K’s sting and knew better from my weekly reports and documentary proof so he just watched in amusement as the man (Kereke), despite all that he was doing to destabilize, the bank got stronger and more influential by the day at Zimpapers where he was appointed board member, becoming a ” reliable” source of entertainment news about the thieving governor.
The events of the last couple of days show that the President and the Minister of Finance were right not to feel bothered by the accusations.
Q: Dr Kereke painted a picture of a mutually assured destruction and accused you of fighting him, hence his reference “we were fighting while both of us were on a cliff so to speak…” But you, on the other hand, say you were quiet while all this drama was taking place. How do we reconcile this contradiction?
A: Well, well I don’t see the confusion here. If someone provokes and takes a fight to you or your home, and you start defending yourself, would you say these two are fighting; or accurate reporting would be that A went to attack B and B started defending himself?
But look at it this way Mr Huni, how could I have been fighting my junior? In aid of what? Fighting someone who was in his diapers when I started working or was born four years before I started working and who I had recruited to be my personal professional assistant designated as advisor to the governor?
Mind you, Dr K was not overall bank advisor but governor’s advisor and someone who served at the pleasure of his principal, to whom his professional advisory services were directed.
It was simply a case of a junior whose self-importance and ego had outgrown the institution and that of his principal; a junior who felt over-confident that he would soon take over the leadership of the bank from his principal, whose contractual term was a shade too far, hence all the shenanigans to try and expedite his premature removal from office and pave way for the takeover, as promised by outsiders or otherwise.
Q: Dr Kereke has appealed to your business partners and bankers to forgive him and not hold back support to your projects on account of the false allegations he had made against you. What’s your reaction to that?
A: Bankers, suppliers of goods and services, customers and employees alike react very badly to corruption allegations and charges.
Once such charges are made, you are game for failure.
My family businesses, which I had started way back in the early ‘90s before I had even met Kereke or joined the central bank, like New Donnington Farm, Lunar Chickens and others, became targets of support withdrawal from several quarters.
Bankers called up their loans before maturity, some refused clear cut cases of rescheduling and both creditors and workers became agitated while many customers, owing over US$3 million disappeared or simply played games that saw us failing to collect our dues.
Statutory bodies accelerated their pressure on us and some business partners I thought would help us out of the situation we found ourselves in not only took us for a ride thinking we were dead, but became very arrogant.
Management and staff of my companies were infiltrated by emissaries supposedly sent by Kereke to destabilise my businesses from within.
We lost a lot of money to well-calculated fraud and some of our properties were destroyed by fires in circumstances one could not understand.
Well, well, well. I could write a book about the impact of Dr K’s MAD strategy on my family businesses and it would a best seller. Going forward, I will be engaging the same bankers to make peace and start afresh but I now know who is who in the zoo.
It’s a nice experience to have. Even employees that we will re-hire, we now know each other better. So, in short, the adverse effects of corruption allegations on a governor, retired on not, are incalculable!
Q: There were reports that Dr Kereke, due to his post at the RBZ, had lots of influence in the banking sector?
A: Kereke had also used his position of advisor in the governor’s office to create a serious following in the banking sector (and some people) literally followed or listened to him more than the governor.
Upon his discharge from the bank, these bankers joined hands with him to fight me and my businesses. Some actually focused more on wanting to take away from me all my family private and personal assets than focus on the recovery of the businesses.
Some bankers, it came to my attention, would get personal staff loans from within their banks, move to put certain assets under the hammer and behind the scenes, offer liquidity to their friends to buy those assets at a song, and feel satisfied that they have inflicted good punishment on the governor “who gave us torrid time when he was in office”.
Some came after my children’s homes or personal offices I was working from, forced ridiculous values upon me and told me to take it or leave it, while others were so daring as to want the actual house in which I was living in.
Such was the impact of the allegations on the banking sector executives but you also have some who were very considerate and offered holistic solutions without exhibiting malice. My book, “Running on Empty,” will expose all these shenanigans.
Q: You have spoken extensively about the impact of Dr Kereke’s false accusations on your business. What about on your political and social life?
A: The negative impact of his reckless and false accusations were very serious in both quarters. I was surprised that some politicians actually swallowed his accusations as gospel truth hook, line and sinker.
I will not talk about national politics but in my rural district and even province, I was surprised to find out that some MPs whom I had supported materially, fed and dined with, were the ones at the forefront of spreading these lies to my home area, at rallies and behind closed doors.
I stopped visiting my rural area because everywhere I went, I was regarded as a thief. Within my own church, I’m an Anglican, the Bishop, Dr Chad Gandiya, had appointed me to serve on the board of the new Anglican University but because of these allegations, I felt I needed to recuse myself temporarily in case I spoiled the university’s fundraising assignments on account of those false allegations.
Of course, the bishop knew better and kept urging me to serve but I would give excuse after excuse because of that. So yes, I withdrew from many social functions and stayed away from lots of invitations to socialise. That’s how hurtful those terrible accusations were.
I have been in business for over 20 years and been working since 1977, so for some, even youngsters who were borne yesterday, the Gono they know is one only as a civil servant, as a governor, not knowing that I had been working for 27 years before I became governor for ten years.
I met Kereke in 2004 after I had been working for 27 years and operating family businesses of one form or another for 20 years!
Q: Dr Kereke also suggested in his apology that you were partly to blame because you didn’t communicate effectively. What is your comment?
A: It is significant to note that as governor, I reported to the board and Minister of Finance and not to my juniors, so to speak.
The demand by Dr Kereke that I should have been calling him and consulting or reporting the nature of my discussions with my principals and telling him everything I knew in order for him to have understood the real situation in the bank smacks of a request to reverse the role and place of juniors in a corporate set-up.
There can only be one boss from whom you take instructions and report to.
There is something called information on a “need-to-know” basis. If your boss chooses not to confide in you, you do not suddenly become a spy against him/her if you still have all your senses and loyalty in place.
And, few people in life fight and win battles against their bosses. In fact a book entitled “You can’t win a fight with your boss” by Tom Market is a basic must-read for anyone who has a boss. Dr Kereke should have known better.
Q: Let me come to another issue … During the trial of Dr Kereke for rape, the basis upon which he is serving a 10-year jail term at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, he kept on bringing your name into the picture, including his mother-in-law. Did you have anything to do with his troubles in this regard?
A: Huni munin’ina, aaa, my simple answer to that question is: Can or will London ever become the capital city of Zimbabwe or Harare the capital city of Britain? Put differently, is Pope Francis a member of Magaya’s PHD ministries?
That is how far-fetched that accusation is yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Like I keep repeating, Dr Kereke’s proclivity or tendency to come up with hyperbolic and extremely annoying suggestions are now legendary.
There is absolutely no truth in this and only him and the alleged victims and God know the full truth of what happened that fateful night.
If he was convinced that I had anything to do with the case, he could have subpoenaed me – caused through his lawyers my voluntary or involuntary appearance at his court session as a witness for cross-examination.
Surely if I was a factor for or against his conviction, would he not have done everything under the sun to ask for my appearance to exonerate him?
I have never in my life met Mr Warara, the private prosecutor; the Mwaramwires, as in guardians of the girls in question; the girls themselves; or the mother-in-law who alleged that I came to their home in Mudzi there persuading her to testify against Dr Kereke in return for mechanisation benefits which, by the way, had long been discontinued in March, 2008, two, three years before the alleged commission of the crime.
Q: I hear you. Now…
A: I have a question for you. Why didn’t you ask him about the rape case when you had the opportunity? You could have helped us all by now, to know and understand whether he is extending his apology to cover that matter or it is still under contention?
Also, was he apologising by name to me and my family alone or vese vana DG (Happyton) Bonyongwe and other service chiefs whom he used to abuse with his lies; Cde Madzingira in the President’s Office, Mirirai Chiremba, Gersham Muradzikwa and Millicent Mombeshoras of this world; my former PAs Chengeto Dube and Denise Naicker; drivers and security personnel as well as all other RBZ and non-RBZ personalities that he took to the cleaners?
Q: No, no, no Dr Gono, we can’t reverse roles here. I am the one interviewing you, not the other way. This interview has been going on well so far. Lastly, are you going to visit Dr Kereke at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison anytime soon?
A: You don’t have a monopoly of questions Huni.
I will go and see him soon but not as a The Sunday Mail or Munyaradzi Huni public relations exercise; but a genuine gesture of friendship and reconciliation.
Hebrews 13:13 teaches us not to forget those in prisons as if we were in prison with them; while in the area of forgiveness, Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.”
I will not keep a grudge against Dr Kereke for to do so would be self-defeating.
Well, thank you for coming but I repeat here that there is more that went into sustaining and keeping this country afloat at its time of greatest need, its time of greatest danger and when it was easier to give up than to continue.
I hear many people blaming the former Governor for every conceivable ill from hyper-inflation to quasi-fiscal operations without full knowledge of what it actually took to avoid recolonisation of Zimbabwe.
My forthcoming book, entitled “Running on Empty”, shall speak to every accusation and show how we managed to survive as a country, choosing monetary inflation as opposed to hyper-inflation in the form of dead bodies.
Kuseri kweguva hakuna muteuro …we can speak as we want today because we are alive. Cheers! To God be the glory. Sunday Mail