Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe attends the opening session of the fourth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on November 8, 2009. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao pledged to give African countries 10 billion dollars in concessional loans as the two-day summit opened with delegations from 49 African countries.
Zimbabwe opposition party Movement For Democratic Change (MDC)'s treasurer and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett (front R) passes a security check point at the High Court Building in Harare November 10, 2009. Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's ally Bennett went on trial accused of terrorism on Monday in a case that has stoked tensions in the unity government of Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.
Zimbabwe opposition party Movement For Democratic Change (MDC)'s treasurer and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett leaves the High Court Building in Harare, November 10, 2009. Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's ally Roy Bennett went on trial accused of terrorism on Monday in a case that has stoked tensions in the unity government of Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.
CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 10: Graeme Smith of South Africa is stumped by Tatenda Taibu of Zimbabwe for 53 runs during the second one day international match between South Africa and Zimbabwe at Supersport Park on November 10, 2009 in Centurion, South Africa.
CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 10: Ray Price of Zimbabwe celebrates the wicket of Alviro Petersen of South Africa for 13 runs during the second one day international match between South Africa and Zimbabwe at Supersport Park on November 10, 2009 in Centurion, South Africa.
CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 10: Man of the series Tatenda Taibu of Zimbabwe poses with his trophy after the second one day international match between South Africa and Zimbabwe at Supersport Park on November 10, 2009 in Centurion, South Africa.
Zimbabwe opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) treasurer-general and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett (C) greets members of the public outside the High Court Building in Harare, November 11, 2009. Bennett was arrested in February and charged with illegally possessing arms to commit acts of terrorism, banditry and insurgency, charges that carry a possible death penalty.
Zimbabwe opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) treasurer-general and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett arrives at the High Court Building in Harare, November 11, 2009.
Zimbabwe opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) treasurer-general and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett (R) talks to his wife Heather (L) and an unidentified woman at the High Court Building in Harare, November 11, 2009.
Roy Bennet, centre upon his arrival for the third day of his trial at the High Court in Harare, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009. Bennet, an ally of Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, is facing terrorism charges in a case that has caused tension and discomfort in the unity government in Zimbabwe.
Plot to frame Biti is exposed as Raid went ahead before evidence was planted.
The plot is widely seen as either a stalling tactic or retaliation for Biti’s probe into US$45m missing from the central bank,Biti's investigation uncovered scandal at the RBZ, including the revelation that, between December and August, Gono siphoned off US$45m from the RBZ. The money had been a statutory reserve meant to provide financial cover to banks in trouble.
Gono claims the money was used to bankroll the troubled airline, Air Zimbabwe, to pay presidential scholarships and to finance diplomatic missions. This was at a time, however, when the RBZ had failed to provide funding for salaries for the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, pensions, communications and courier services.
Biti presented a full report on this plunder to Mugabe last week. Another report has been sent to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
Biti confirmed to ****The Zimbabwean on Tuesday**** that US$45m had indeed been “stolen” from the RBZ.
“It’s economic kleptocracy,” he said.
An investigation by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) technical team also corroborated Biti’s findings, and said Gono had stolen US$45.5m from the RBZ.
“The RBZ has used foreign reserve assets to fund its operating expenses, withdrawals of foreign currency amounts and debt service, as well as payments on behalf of the government,” the damning IMF report stated. “The total value of fund outflows is reported to have been US$45.5 million between end-December 2008 and end-August. The RBZ also accumulated US$40.3 million in arrears on operating expenses during the first nine months of 2009.”
Gono came out guns blazing, and co-ordinated a response to what he saw as Biti’s continued effort to embarrass him.
In a desperate bid to forestall the exposure, there was a contrived plot, hatched by the Joint Operations Command, which continues to meet illegally, and Gono, to frame Biti, our source said.
The Zimbabwean on Tuesday heard that the plot against Biti involved 20 AK-47 rifles, reportedly missing from the highly-secured Pomona army barracks in Borrowdale.
Authoritative sources said this week the operation was botched after armed police hurriedly raided Biti’s Chisipite home two weeks ago, before the weapons had been planted. The search uncovered nothing.
There was now a manhunt for the 12 soldiers who have disappeared with the weapons without planting them at Biti's home.
It was believed some low-key MDC officials received cash inducements in exchange for information on Biti’s properties.
“The long history of Zanu (PF) planting weapons and pressing charges of treason are age-old, tired tactics of the Zanu (PF) dictatorship, but they must know that this is a serious attack on our movement and we will not back down,” Biti said then.
Now MDC Transport Manager, Pascal Gwezere, has been abducted and jailed in connection with the missing weapons.
Sources, however, say it is close to impossible to steal anything from the high-security One Engineers Support Regiment Armoury, from where the 20 Ak-47 rifles are said to have been stolen.
Biti vowed that no amount of harassment or threats would make him back down.
“The real loss that this country has suffered is 10 years of economic mismanagement, economic chicanery and economic kleptocracy,” he said. “It will take us 10 years to achieve the GDP that we had in 1996 and this is at a cost of anything between US$15bn and US$45bn.”
Over the past few years, Biti has been jailed and beaten by President Mugabe’s security forces. But despite still trying to deal with the trauma of those experiences, he has resolutely effected central bank reforms and has been credited with ending hyperinflation and reining in Gono, accused of wrecking the economy through quasi-fiscal activities.
The latest spat comes amid heightened tensions between Gono and Biti. The central bank chief has claimed his boss was stalling the distribution of US$510m received from the International Monetary Fund in August.
Gono has tried to claim credit for winning the funds, which form part of a global scheme that the IMF offered to all of its members, but the IMF has said the funds are under the control of the Finance Ministry.
Biti is insisting that the funds will only be distributed once the national budget, expected to be presented this month, has been approved by parliament.
The MDC insists it wants the RBZ governor, a close ally of President Mugabe, replaced by an impartial candidate. This was one of the issues central to the ongoing talks that saw the MDC disengaging from government on October 16.
And Biti has consistently rebutted attacks by Gono, including accusations earlier this year that Honey and Blankenberg, the leading Harare legal firm in which the Minister of Finance, is a senior partner, had externalised more than US$1m in foreign currency, allegedly in contravention of exchange control regulations.
Many of Gono’s critics in the banking sector were hounded out of the country after similar allegations were levelled against them by Gono. Biti and his law firm rubbished the allegations and challenged Gono to prove it.
Gono’s office last week requested written questions, which had been e-mailed but had not been responded to.
MARONDERA-More than 100 war veterans, collaborators, Zanu thugs and traditional leaders, have today demonstrated here, demanding that finance minister Tendai Biti, must divert funds spared for new national constitution making to agriculture.
Placards wielded by the rogue and crowd shy demonstrators read," Finance Minister Tendai Biti, divert EU funds donated for the constitution, to agriculture."
The demonstrators bused from surrounding farms, denounced the MDC for not being ‘helpful’ to farmers.
"The previous Zanu PF government prioritized farmer’s requirements such as farm in puts. Elements in the inclusive government, who are anti- Zanu, despise farmers and have a hidden agenda. The Finance Minister has abandoned farmers," said a war veteran who refused to be identified.
The demonstration which disrupted traffic flow in the town, was well coordinated as the demonstrators met with traditional chiefs at Governor Aenius Chigwedere’s office. They presented a petition to the governor.
The petition handing over was delayed for some hours as the governor wanted the Television crew to cover the event. "The message must get to the MDC’s door steps. We will wait for television coverage, whatever time it comes," said a demonstration leader identified as Mushayavanhu.
The demonstrators vowed to disrupt drafting of the new constitution if their demands are not met. They also threatened to grab in puts from Zimbabwe Farmers Union warehouses without paying.
Residents in town scoffed at the demonstrators, saying they did not deserve what they were demanding.
"Some farming fields are full of wild grass all year round. These so called farmers have let the country down. No one should give in to their demands. They have been sponsored by government since time immemorial," said one of the residents.