Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono yesterday opened up on his alleged personal debts to various financial institutions, which his critics claim have forced him to fight in the corner of foreign banks in the country.
Gono was responding to the gazetting of a notice by Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere giving foreign banks a one-year ultimatum to hand over 51% of their stakes to locals.
“It has falsely and mischievously been suggested in some quarters that as governor, I am protecting the foreign banks because I owe them huge amounts in the form of loans given to my family business entities,” he said in a statement.
“Well, for the record, my family and I have had business dealings with Barclays and Standard Bank dating back to 1977.
“At present, I do not owe any of these banks a single penny by way of loans or facilities. Indeed my family companies owe millions of dollars to regional and continental banks that have extended lines of credit to local banks and through them, to my family enterprises.
“A substantial component of these loans are all performing though a local bank affected by curatorship, it follows that my family business loans through these institutions also get affected, get called-up like those of any other borrowing entity operating in a difficult environment in Zimbabwe.”
Gono said loans extended to his family businesses were “treated as any”.
He said he did not run the companies directly or interfere with their legal processes.
“This must therefore dispel any notion that the governor gets feared or favoured by the banks or that I am protecting foreign-owned banks as a favour to them,” he said.
“I am just as ordinary a family businessperson like anyone else . . . my family companies do try to stand on their own though without over-reliance on Gideon Gono the governor.
“It is very tempting and exciting to sue the governor when any of his family companies experience, like any other, difficulties to meet their commitments.”
The central bank governor said he had been in business for the last 33 years and employs about 2 000 people directly in sectors such as farming, agro-processing, horticulture, construction, real estate, publishing, transport and consultancy among others.
“We are now the third largest chicken-intergrated farming operation in the country after Irvine’s and CFI-Crest, all started from scratch over the last 33 years,” he said. “Some people think that we own some banks around, but nothing could be further from the truth!”
Gono has urged caution on the implementation of the indigenisation programme, saying it had the potential to run Zimbabwe’s economy aground.