Eyebrows raised at Gono’s new Mercedes Benz

BY GIFT PHIRI


Gono’s merc Ordinary people cycling to work

HARARE – Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono, is facing investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission into allegations that he could have used trinkets from the fertilisergate scandal to purchase his latest luxurious Mercedes Benz.
Officials confirmed they have received a flurry of complaints from several “concerned people” prodding them to look into the circumstances surrounding the recent purchase of the Mercedes Benz from Germany for US$365,000.
On condition of anonymity, a commissioner told The Zimbabwean that there were concerns about the timing of the purchase of the car, coming as it did hardly three months after Gono was at the centre of a shady deal involving the importation of 70,000 tonnes of fake fertilizer from Intshona Products, a South African company whose credentials remain suspect.
The vehicle at the center of the storm is a Mercedes Benz Brabus E V12 Biturbo – which according to Benz manufacturers Daimler – is the fastest car in the world with a top speed of 350 km/h. A twin turbo twelve-cylinder engine powers the car. It can ramp its speed to 100km/h in only 4,5 seconds.
Gono, a self-made trillionaire who at one point said he has not yet touched his salary since 2003 when he assumed the governorship of the central bank, is a successful farmer involved in maize and flower production for export. But the commissioner said information they had received suggested that the proceeds from Gono’s farming adventure could not sustain such a purchase.
The source said the inquiry would center on allegations that Intshona showered Gono with gifts worth millions of US dollars or Rands in order to retain several contracts to continue supplying Zimbabwe with agro products.
Gono bankrolled the importation of the 70,000 tonnes of Compound D fertilizer for the 2006/7 maize production season, of which 800 tonnes were of inferior quality but was distributed to farmers by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) anyhow. The government was prejudiced of US$300,000 in this deal
Intshona has also curiously been subcontracted to supply 600,000 tonnes of wheat in yet another deal financed by Gono. At the end of December, the company had supplied 90,000 tonnes. The wheat has turned out to be low quality and is best suitable for stockfeed. Intshona is being paid US$345 per tonne by the central bank in this deal.
What is now curious is that despite the company’s successive bungling in the handling of the supply of agro products, it has been given yet another contract by Gono to supply 190,000 tonnes of maize by March 2007.
The commissioner said the corruption unit would investigate whether Gono knowingly and unethically abused public funds to engage in fraudulent operations for personal gain.
“The allegations are simple – that a South African company has bribed the governor to take a contract,” said the commissioner. “The company is well known. The alleged bribes are all for fairly large sums of money… we are talking hundreds of thousands of US dollars.”
President Robert Mugabe has said wrongful self-enrichment will not go unpunished.
If the corruption unit manages to open a full-scale probe into the allegations, it will be the commission’s first high-profile case involving a senior government official.
Since its establishment last year, the Anti-Corruption Commission has remained conspicuously silent as graft has continued to ravage the top echelons in government.
Gono was unavailable for comment with his secretary saying he was on leave until next Monday. His cell phone was also unavailable.

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