“I cannot pretend to be poor to make people happy” – Guvamatanga
By Staff Reporter | Nehanda Politics |
Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga faced fierce criticism over his 50th birthday bash in Harare where he invited top performers from South Africa, but he struck a defiant tone saying “I cannot pretend to be poor to make people happy”.
On Wednesday last week, Guvamatanga threw a lavish 50th birthday party attended by business executives and media figures. South African musicians Makhadzi and Mafikizolo were hired for an extravagant outdoor celebration, dubbed “G.T.G 50”.
One video from the party caused a stir on social media when Guvamatanga is seen promising to multiply by five the payment promised to one of the artists.
The video caused outcry from the majority of Zimbabweans living in a country where inflation is as high as 53% at year-end, a weakening of the local currency and price hikes of basic commodities.
“So whatever there was on that bill. I don’t want to disclose. I’m multiplying what was on that bill by five. Tomorrow morning you give me your bank details and by the time you get to SA that amount by five will be in your account my brother,” said Guvamatanga.
But Guvamatanga who was managing director of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe before it was taken over by AMB Capital in 2017, defended himself saying he spent 30 years with the bank and millions were paid out as packages when he left the bank.
“I worked for a big international bank for 30 years and I was paid in offshore accounts. There are millions in that account.
“Others avoid paying taxes when they are paid through offshore accounts, but Barclays was strict.
“And if you ask Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) they will tell you that I was one of the biggest taxpayers during my stint at Barclays Bank.
“I paid between US$2 million and US$3 million in taxes, the records are there. Now, if I paid US$3 million, ndakasara nemarii? (How much remained in my account?).
“My package at Barclays, including my bonus, was US$3 million. It is all above board. I have a known offshore account, and have interests across most sectors of the economy, from insurance to agriculture to distribution and others.
He added: “I can’t stop my wife and children from organising the party because they said when you reach 50 years; we will need to celebrate because of what happened. I cannot pretend to be poor to make people happy.
“I am not poor. I am so surprised that people are judging me with the three years that I have been a civil servant, instead of the 30 years that I worked for Barclays.
“I am doing national service in the government. I have a trust that is paying the bills for a cancer patient, an amount more than what was paid to the artists.
“And I have a maid who I have stayed with for many years, and I bought her a house,” Guvamatanga added.
Guvamatanga is also under fire for accepting lavish gifts from corruption-accused business tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei which many analysts said are legally questionable.
Tagwirei, showered gifts on the government paymaster, pledging a private jet, US$50,000 in spending money, an executive box at the Emirates Stadium in London and a shirt signed by Arsenal captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“We’re on sanctions, but we make things happen over there (in the United Kingdom),” Tagwirei boasted, referring to travel and financial sanctions imposed on him by the United Kingdom in July for “poisoning the well of democracy” through corruption.
Lawyers have since pointed out that Tagwirei, the biggest beneficiary of government contracts in the last five years, was actually bribing Guvamatanga.
Prominent legal eagle Advocate Thabani Mpofu said: “The evidently turpius gift shows that both the giver and the receiver have received an education in fraud. It is completely reprehensible and drags the department of finance into moral defilement.
“It is impossible to ignore the fact that the two are in an ongoing relationship over which serious questions have been and continue to be raised. Guvamatanga is the government paymaster and Tagwirei is the biggest beneficiary of some of the most shady and undue payments made under this government.” Nehanda Radio