Gono’s seven farm empire unmasked

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Golden Sibanda
Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor and businessman, Gideon Gono, is named in sensational claims of multiple farm ownership which he accumulated under state leases due to his high-level political ties and influence in former President Robert Mugabe’s government, which saw him allegedly attempt to grab another from a private bank and prejudicing it in the process.

At the height of his reign at the Reserve Bank, the then powerful man, leased State farms measuring about 5000 hectares, although the government was advocating a single farm ownership policy.

Gono refused to discuss the issue of his multiple farms with the Business Weekly, dismissing the allegations as unfounded. The newspaper could not get details on how much the former bank governor was paying in lease fees for the farms, and how productive he was as the government is pressing for high use of farmland.

The revelations around Gono’s farms are contained in an annexure to an Urgent Chamber Application, High Court case HC 5056/18 in which Time Bank shareholders are seeking a (suspension) stay of execution on two court judgments.

Notably, the urgent application is meant to suspend a Supreme Court ruling and High Court judgment, awarded to a party ‘wrongly’ allocated one of their properties under Government’s land reform programme.

The Court Application alleges that Dr Gono played a significant role, through former Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa, in settling a number of scores, which bordered on disputes over Time Bank and the land property in Goromonzi, which he allegedly also wanted and attempted, but failed to acquire from Time Bank Investment Corporation (TBIC), a key shareholder of the private bank, Time Bank.

TBIC alleges that its refusal to cancel its purchase agreement with the original owner of the land property, for Gono to acquire it, was one of the reasons the ex-governor caused closure of Time Bank in 2006.

Multiple farm holding was and remains a violation of the Government’s one-person-one-farm policy meant to ensure equitable land distribution among deserving farmers and guaranteeing optimal use of resettlement land.

In Gono’s case, it is unclear as well how the “leased farms” sit alongside any commercial farm he could have been allocated by the government under the land reform programme whose mechanisation was funded by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe under his watch.

Addressing a youth rally in Gweru last week President Mnangagwa said Government will repossess land from multiple farm owners and redistribute it to youths and other Zimbabweans yearning to venture into the lucrative farming business.

Government has already indicated a land audit would be instituted to identify multiple farm owners and leave identified culprits with only a single farm.

Asked to respond on the multiple farm allegations, Dr Gono said he would not respond to unfounded allegations and that he had nothing to say on the matter.

“I do not respond to that kind of preposterous accusations, I don’t. There is no story that touches on me that I should respond to,” Dr Gono said. “I am out of the country, but thank you for letting me know,” he said.

“I have no comment to make on this or nay other matter that involves Time Bank directors. That is why we have functioning courts in our country. People must just learn to move on with lives and if they have issues, take them to the courts. I cannot be spending my time responding to preposterous accusations born out of fractures, dreams and lies,” Dr Gono added.

However, The Time Bank court papers shows that Dr Gono got multiple farms allegedly with the help and approval of former Lands, Land Reform and Rural Resettlement Minister Mutasa.

At one point, Mutasa also served as the State Security Minister in ex-president Mugabe’s administration, which collapsed in November last year. Mutasa could not be reached to comment on his role in the issues raised by the Time Bank shareholders.

Documents, in the possession of Business Weekly, show that the former RBZ chief acquired more than a single farm, parceled out some to his family members or consolidated them under Government leases.

The consolidation under Government leases were allegedly pre-calculated to avoid detection of multiple ownership, given the Government’s iron-clad one farm-one man policy.

Dr Gono’s multiple farms
Three of the farms were registered under Government lease agreement MA 900/2008. The State title deeds for the three farms are 7625/2008, 7626/2008 and 7623/2008 measuring 1020 hectares, 144ha and 942ha, respectively.

Cumulatively, the consolidated farms have a hectarage of 3 129 hectares.
Also, it emerged Dr Gono acquired two State farms under State title deed 7619/2008, which were leased to Emily Gono by the ex-minister Mutasa with the lease being registered under consolidated Government lease MA 900/2008, dated 25/08/2008, again to avoid detection.

“Under this State title deed two farms were deliberately consolidated in 2008 with the first farm measuring more 348 ha and the second farm measures 1 154ha, totaling more than 1502ha,” documents show.

“Furthermore, two State farms under state title deed 7622/2008 were leased to Peter Passion Gono by Mr (Didymus) Mutasa, as Minister of Lands, under Government lease MA 898/2008 dated 25/8/2008.

“Under this State title deed, two farms were deliberately consolidated in 2008 with the first farm measuring more than 161 hectares and the second farm measuring 121 hectares, totaling more than 282 hectares.”

The farms are located in the Mashonaland West Province, between Norton and Chegutu.

How Dr Gono’s multiple farms were exposed
Dr Gono’s alleged multiple farm ownership was recently exposed by his longtime nemesis Time Bank Investment Corporation (TBIC), with whom he got embroiled in a bruising wrangle over Time Bank, a unit of TBIC.

This expose’ came as a result of an ongoing legal dispute, which also allegedly has its roots in the dispute between the Time Bank directors and the ex-central bank chief.
TIBC, a key shareholder of Time Bank, recently appealed to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe to overturn two court judgments, which went against it while contesting a case of ‘illegal’ attempts to grab one of its properties.

TBIC said that it had lost the case before the High Court and Supreme Court because Dr Gono frustrated efforts to gain supporting documents, which were locked up in the bank, which RBZ had closed in 2006.

Closure of Time Bank, TBIC claims, was unjustified and violated its Constitutional rights, an assertion the company says was vindicated by the courts of law, which awarded in its favour in 2009.

Although Time Bank contested its closure and won in 2009, it was still not given access to the bank by the central bank, at the instruction of Dr Gono, as this would give access to key evidence it needed to back its land grab case and allegedly as an act to merely spite them.

TBIC only gained access to the bank through a proper handover takeover after incumbent RBZ Governor, Dr John Mangudya took over at the helm of the bank in 2014, moving swiftly to end the tiff with Time Bank and declaring “let bygones be bygones.”
How Dr Gono, TBIC fell out

Dr Gono and Mutasa were implicated for alleged facilitating grabbing of TBIC’s residential land property, which is adjoining Dr Gono’s farm along Mutoko Road.

Apparently, Dr Gono at one time allegedly wanted to acquire the property, when TBIC had already had it formally approved as residential or township land, but was turned down by the seller, one M.C Reimer.

Dr Gono allegedly claimed that he wanted to buy the property, measuring 5 123 hectares, for himself and former president, Robert Mugabe.

He allegedly warned that failure to concede would mean serious consequences.
Having failed in his attempt to acquire the property, having also unsuccessful tried to have TBIC’s already concluded purchase agreement with the original owner of the farm, one MC Reimer cancelled, Dr Gono then joined forces with Mutasa to fight Time Bank.

In what TBIC believes was action motivated by attempts to spite Time Bank and its shareholders, their property in Goromonzi was allocated to Kennedy Godwin Mangenje, who is an ex-manager of the RBZ.

The allocation was done by Mutasa under the guise of the land reform programme.
The land should have never been allocated to another person under the guise of land reform, as it had already been converted into township land and subdivided into housing stands by the time of the land reform.
The earlier court judgments on the Goromonzi land case, which were awarded in the favour of Mangenje, are the basis of Time Bank shareholders’ recent urgent chamber application at the High Court and an appeal, through TBIC, filed at the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe.

Mangenje used as pawn
TBIC contends that Kennedy Godwin Mangenje, who was allocated TBIC’s Goromonzi property, was used as a pawn to settle scores between Dr Gono and Mutasa on one side and Time Bank and its owners on the other, the global picture of which he may not have been aware of.

Apparently, before Mutasa was appointed Minister of Lands in 2003, he had also fallen out with TBIC and its shareholders for refusing to obey his orders.

Mutasa had reportedly sold a property in Tynwald (Cold Comfort), and since the sale was made to a Time Bank client and the bank financed the transaction. Troubled started when Mutasa wanted to sell the property to another customer yet he had been paid in the first sale.

The former minister then allegedly ordered the bank not to release proof of payment, but the bank reportedly took a principled position and declined the instruction.
From then on, Mutasa never liked the bank, specifically its shareholders, hence the spite that saw him, allegedly working with Dr Gono, offering one of the bank’s land properties to a fellow black man, an irregularity done under the guise of Government’s land reform programme.

This was despite the fact that the Provincial Lands Committee of Mashonaland East opposed the “purported” acquisition of the property, owned by TBIC since 1999, as it had been approved a township land in 2003.

TBIC argued that if Dr Gono and Mutasa sincerely wanted Mangenje to have a farm, they should have allocated him one of the many farms from the ones that were given to the ex-RBZ chief.

The once powerful ex-central bank chief reigned as the RBZ governor between 2003 and 2013, after which incumbent governor Dr Mangudya took over, following the expiration of Dr Gono’s two five year terms.

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