Guvamatanga, Tagwirei caught up in a nasty corruption storm

By Dr Masimba Mavaza

Zimbabweans have been shocked by the totally irresponsible showing off attitude by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, George Guvamatanga.

People are constrained that the irresponsible comments coming out of the unguarded mouth of George Guvamatanga has only helped to spawn resentment to the government of the new dispensation.

Guvamatanga’s comments came during a lavish birthday he held in his own honour.
While it is understandable that as a part of free speech everyone has the right to vent his or her feelings, what has been uttered by George Guvamatanga is regrettable and utterly reprehensible.

And equally alarming is to see the senior civil servant boasting with funds and riches sponsored on the public fund. Populism may fetch a few votes for a candidate but carries within it seeds of his undoing. History tells us that all thieves were once popular boastful dunderheads masquerading as leaders. 

It appears that a game of bizarre was being played out at this party where as a senior civil servant Guvamatanga shunned Zimbabwean singers and hire foreign singers which he promised to pay five times more than they have charged him in a country struggling to make ends meet.

The Permanent Secretary made preposterous utterances and even added salt to the injury by saying that he is not ashamed of being rich. In the wake of his utterances Guvamatanga needs to take credible and irreversible steps against corruption rather than making hysterical statements to obfuscate the core issue that bedevils our economy, money.

Besides his verbal running mouth Guvamatanga was given fifty thousand dollars as a present by Tagwirei who is known to be doing a lot of business with the government. ‘Guvamatanga is the government paymaster and Tagwirei is the biggest beneficiary of some of the most shady and undue payments’ many people complained.

It is therefore unlawful for Guvamatanga to accept a present from a client of the government. This is clear corruption and it must be investigated. Treasury secretary George Guvamatanga’s acceptance of lavish gifts from business tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei is legally questionable, borders on the lines of corruption and puts the whole government into disrepute.

Guvamatanga a civil servant splashed millions of dollars by flying three top South African performers Mafikizolo, Makhadzi and Louis Mhlanga to entertain selected guests.

Tagwirei, the biggest beneficiary of government contracts in the last five years, 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.

In a very irresponsible manner when president Mnangagwa is fighting corruption and Africa is standing with us on fighting sanctions Tagwirei showed a middle finger to those standing by us when he said: “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.

This behaviour by Tagwirei and Guvamatanga does not help us as a nation but destroy what we are fighting against.

How could this country cultivate a progressive support when there are people who step out to speak on parties without exercising good sense, sombre-minded consideration for the full welfare of society, and make a reasonably conscious effort to be objective, responsible, and professional in sharing their opinion with the nation?

People who take on the role of public leadership, especially those positioning themselves as experts, need to be aware that their utterances on the national stage have multifaceted, far-reaching, and potentially damaging impact, that their words and choice of language could damage the public good and national progress.

A disturbing news story made the rounds in some sections of the national media and internationally on social media highlighting the strange, incomprehensible, outlandish remarks by the nation’s purse holder and nation’s richest man Tagwirei.

The news headlines in several daily newspapers and social media were screaming a tantrum, concerning the extravagancy exhibited by the Permanent secretary and the public acceptance of a bribe from Tagwirei.

Guvamatanga Is serving this country as head of the finance and therefore his comments take on a decidedly expert tone, and as a member of the Civil Service he also speaks with a political overtone. Indeed, the nation touts him as the country’s leading financial advisor and Tagwirei is the presidential advisor.

Given such an elevated perch in the finance ministry how responsible and sensible is the utterance and behaviour of Guvamatanga and Tagwirei.

Zimbabwe is a small country now working its way out of decades of poverty and socioeconomic struggles, and found great favour with the region and good guidance of ED but now being plunged into confusion by these two spoiled brutes.

Legally speaking Tagwirei’s gift to Guvamatanga has corruption written all over its face.

“Nothing about that gift passes the corruption smell test. Given the allegations against the giver and how he benefits from certain decisions by the ministry of finance, the question ‘what is he paying for’ is a valid one,” Chinyoka a lawyer said.

“With enough digging, it might not be hard to conclude it’s also unlawful.”

If we look at the law the gift by Tagwirei was a bribe.

“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,” advocate Thabani Mpofu recogned.

The law as enshrined on section 170(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and Tagwirei’s actions could be penalised under the same anti-bribery law in section 170(1)(b).

The cited law says:
(1)    Any
(a)    agent who obtains or agrees to obtain or solicits or agrees to accept for himself or herself or any other person any gift or consideration as an inducement or reward
(i)    for doing or omitting to do, or having done or omitted to do, any act in relation to his or her principal’s affairs or business; or
(ii)    for showing or not showing, or having shown or not shown, any favour or disfavour to any person or thing in relation to his or her principal’s affairs or business;
knowing or realising that there is a real risk or possibility that such gift or consideration is not due to him or her in terms of any agreement or arrangement between himself or herself and his or her principal;
(b)     person who, for himself or herself or any other person, gives or agrees to give or offers to an agent any gift or consideration as an inducement or reward
(i)    for doing or omitting to do, or having done or omitted to do, any act in relation to his or her principal’s affairs or business; or
(ii)    for showing or not showing, or having shown or not shown, any favour or disfavour to any person or thing in relation to his or her principal’s affairs or business;
knowing or realising that there is a real risk or possibility that such gift or consideration is not due to the agent in terms of any agreement or arrangement between the agent and his or her principal; shall be guilty of bribery.

The penalty for this kind of criminal misconduct is a period of up to 20 years in prison. Section 170(2) aids the prosecution with the presumption that a gift given under these circumstances is given as a bribe. The bribery can be in respect of a transaction that has already taken place or it may be in respect of future indeterminate transactions.

“Effectively, the onus is on the two to demonstrate the purity of their relationship. This is the kind of issue that any self-respecting Anti-Corruption Commission must become seized with.”

At the heart of the lawyers’ concerns is that Tagwirei, through his company Sakunda Holdings, managed an opaque US$3 billion programme called Command Agriculture which a parliamentary committee said was a scheme to fleece the public purse with zero accountability.

Sakunda Holdings redeemed government treasury bills at up to ten times their official value, accelerating the devaluation the Zimbabwe dollar and increasing the price of essentials such as food, fuel and medicines.

Through his company, Fossil Group, Tagwirei is also receiving millions of dollars from treasury for road construction contracts, while another of his companies, Landela Investments, has reportedly received US$110 million from the government to import buses, a contract that was awarded without going to tender.

Our concerns stem from the likely serious and far reaching consequences such behaviour will have long after they have been done. Even if Guvamombe is not an elected officer his utterances and behaviour are bound to create a mindset among a segment of the West about Zimbabwe that may not be easy to erase.

We are happy to note that there have been across the board condemnation of the behaviour.

The people’s representatives just keep getting richer, and doing so faster than the people represented.

The secret deals and hidden assets of some of the country’s richest and most powerful people will be revealed very soon.

Mr Guvamatanga is supposed to declare his wealth especially now that the nation knows that he only got a payout 350 thousand dollars in 2017. We must not give idiots like Hopewell Chin’ono things to say.

We must be responsible as people and as leaders. On Sunday, Guvamatanga defended his extravagant party, and his pledge to pay five times more than he was charged by Mhlanga, the jazz musician. Guvamatanga said Mhlanga would find the money in his account in South Africa – raising potential breaches of exchange control regulations.

“I worked for a big international bank for 30 years and I was paid in offshore accounts. There are millions in that account,” Guvamatanga told The Standard.

“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.

“I cannot pretend to be poor.”

However The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported at the time that he had been forced out as managing director with a US$354,000 exit package.

Guvamatanga’s civil service salary is RTGS$170,000, this is not enough to splash such lavish parties. It is more so out of courtesy that in a country were we are all groaning under hardships sacrificing for our country to be better government needs very serious focused permanent secretaries not the ones who divide the nation by their verbal diarrhoea.

It is also known that he harbours higher political ambitions. The sad saga of Zimbabwean politics is that any political statement that glorifies self is welcomed by many. It could be possible that Mr. Guvamatanga too, is playing the same card. However, for a responsible Civil Servant to make such wild parties and receive such dubious presents allegations completely uncalled for.

It may be pertinent to point out that Zimbabwe as a nation has never harboured ill intentions against its people and it is not our custom to show off.

Guvamatanga and Kuda Tagwirei must be arrested and it must be made clear that Guvamatanga is not ZANU PF he is a government officer. Tagwirei is not in ZANU PF structures but he is a businessman who is a Zimbabwean. So it is mischief for any one to associate the wayward behaviour of these two outlaws to ZANU PF.


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