Ex-Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Dr Gideon Gono has opened up about how his former advisor, Munyaradzi Kereke, controlled a section of the police force and used it to do his personal bidding.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail, Dr Gono also spoke about how Kereke orchestrated a sophisticated scheme to discredit the then RBZ chief, including creating “evidence” of a plot to poison military generals.
Kereke, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence for rape of a minor at gunpoint, a fortnight ago apologised – through this newspaper – for making corruption allegations against Dr Gono and announced he had dropped the claims before trial.
Dr Gono told us he had accepted the apology, and then opened up on the events leading to him sacking Kereke in 2012.
“It became an open institutional secret that the man’s preoccupation had shifted to pleasing certain principals outside the bank, whom I don’t know.
“It became a question of trying to serve two or more masters at the same time. Accordingly, trusting him with sensitive matters of statecraft in my office or the bank in general became very tricky and difficult.
“I lost confidence in him totally after a series of incidents I considered compromising to the bank if not addressed through separation,” said Dr Gono.
He said by early 2012, Kereke was exhibiting political ambitions, which he later fulfilled by winning the Bikita West parliamentary seat after beating ex-RBZ staffer Mr Elias Musakwa in the 2013 elections.
“So powerful were some quarters operating in his corner such that he could command police to appear anywhere he wanted by just making one phone call.
“On the day he finally left the bank after several attempts to defy my orders, he phoned his friends in ZRP and suddenly four men armed with AK rifles and police cars appeared at the bank to carry all the boxes of secret bank files he wanted to take with him against the bank’s rules and separation procedures.
“They bullied bank staff and forced out the files. Now, if that was not a display of power and defiance, I don’t know what is. Any member of staff could be arrested or harassed by police at his say-so, inside or outside the bank.
“Although he had handed over some bank files to the team that was supervising the handover-takeover process, there are some files he refused to handover, claiming they contained special defence, police and security assignments he had been assigned to work on, without my knowledge, using my time in the bank.
“This was confirmation that there were forces that he was now reporting to other than the governor …
“As a result, he left the bank with confidential files and documents,” said Dr Gono.
Dr Gono said Commissioner-General of Police Dr Augustine Chihuri and his deputies were not aware of these abuses.
“I know that this police contingent was not sent by the Commissioner-General or his deputies. They were not aware of this operation to disrupt the smooth handover-takeover processes that are normal in any institution; threatening to shoot anyone who prevented Dr Kereke from taking home all files he wanted.
“The previous day, another contingent of police had also come to the bank armed with AK rifles with a view to intervening and persuading me to let Dr Kereke remain with the bank.
“In short, the man was now a bundle of connections, a powerhouse of indiscipline and unexplainable behaviour that answered to other authorities than myself or the system in the bank.
“His presence in the bank instilled so much fear and trepidation among junior and senior members of staff, including management. Even deputy governors felt powerless to engage him from a position of seniority over him.
“During private moments with junior managers and staff, Dr Kereke, would tell them of his imminent reassignment to higher offices and how he would soon be overseeing the bank and its operations.
“There started to be divisions in the bank, with staff being told who would remain in the bank and who would leave after the promised elevation and reorganisation.
“This confused many and created parallel structures of loyalty and factions,” explained Dr Gono.
“The last straw was when in January 2012 I returned from leave only to be confronted with bank supervision documents and a very mischievous and technically misleading report which had been ‘anonymously’ sent to a number of Politburo and Central Committee members, senior Government officials, security arms of the State and some Members of Parliament, alleging that my approval of EcoCash money transfer system was a political project by Strive Masiyiwa and myself to prop up opposition political parties so they could defeat Zanu-PF in the 2013 harmonised elections by creating a parallel central bank that would mint money and transfer it to the rural voting public in return for votes.
“At that time in Zimbabwe, few people understood the concept of mobile money and were easily manipulated.
“This trash of a report on EcoCash was surprisingly accepted as gospel truth in some circles and structures of the country with some senior Government officials swallowing its contents hook, line and sinker.
“The effect was to draw daggers against me and I became a marked man. So started the plot to bring down the governor by all means possible and usually, when a dirty job is to be done, there is no better person to do it than someone believed to be close, be it as a friend, a brother, sister, close relatives or workmate.
“Strategies to clone my voice were hatched and supposed recordings of me talking to MDC-T leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, letters with my forged signature of purported plots to destabilise Zanu-PF (were created).
“Purported attempts to poison and kill army generals and harm the President started to surface and made rounds in certain key offices.
“Some of these offices, out of genuine ignorance of these techniques, believed the plots as contained in the fake letters and my supposed voice.
“Day in day out, I wasted time managing rumour, suspicion and disenchantment caused by such a programme of disinformation and assassination of my character instead of focusing on national challenges.
“The atmosphere became poisoned and untenable but I could not put my hands on exactly who was behind those schemes.
“Against such a background, I got to a stage where, after talking to the President and consulting the board, I decided to dismiss Dr Kereke, and in order to avoid a contested route to the separation, the bank paid in full all his dues to the end of his contractual term of office, in line with his contract.”
Dr Gono told The Sunday Mail the corruption allegations negatively affected his businesses, his professional standing and his family.
Asked if he accepted Kerek’s apology, Dr Gono said: “Do I even have a choice on that matter at all? The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to ask the Lord for the ‘forgiveness of our sins as we also forgive those who sin or trespass against us’.
“I have already said that I have sinned countless times since I was born. I have sinned against all members of my family, my friends, relatives, acquaintances, workmates, juniors and seniors, principals and non-principals, and many others including Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans in general through my acts of commission or omission, and daily I ask God to reach out to the hearts and minds of all these people, soften them up and forgive me.
“Some I apologise to their faces, others I can’t, but I am a strong believer in the concept of apology and forgiveness as the Bible teaches us to do.
“Let he who has not made a mistake, who has not sinned, refuse to apologise and seek for forgiveness or refuse to accept a genuine apology such as that coming to me from Dr Kereke and hold back, even for a second, to forgive someone.
“However, acceptance of apologies and granting of forgiveness is not synonymous with forgetting. We will begin anew our relationship with munin’ina Kereke, but each one knowing the boundaries of that relationship.
“…I miss the moments when Dr Kereke was still the 31 to 36-year-old reliable, dependable, brilliant, sincere, honest, cheerful, hospitable, trustworthy pillar of my professional life; simple, sober and a one-wife character who I first taught farming at the Redwing section of my New Donnington Farm in Norton in 2004-2006 before he got his Pamene Farm in Chinhoyi; the ever smiling genius that he was. I miss those parts of him.”
Dr Gono said he had not withdrawn defamation suits for US$25 million and US$20 million filed against Kereke in June and August 2012, as he was still consulting with people affected by the corruption allegations.