THE paranoia about Strive Masiyiwa in the top echelons of government and Zanu PF nearly scuttled the innovative mobile money platform EcoCash after it was claimed, and believed, that the scheme was part of a plot against President Robert Mugabe.
The revelation as made Sunday by former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono as he responded to an apology by former top aide, the now jailed Munyaradzi Kereke, who also recanted allegations of grand corruption against the ex-central bank chief.
“This trash of a report on EcoCash was surprisingly accepted as gospel truth in some circles and structures of the country with some senior Government officials swallowing its contents hook, line and sinker.
“At that time in Zimbabwe, few people understood the concept of mobile money and were easily manipulated. The effect was to draw daggers against me and I became a marked man,” Gono told State media Sunday.
Mugabe and his government have long distrusted and actively thwarted Masiyiwa who has built one of the country’s biggest corporations and has also become a major player in the telecoms industry across the world.
Masiyiwa, now based in London, launched his Econet cell-phone network in 1998 after fighting a five-year legal battle against Mugabe’s government which had refused him a licence to operate.
19 years later, Zanu PF’s wariness about the tycoon abides, with ICTs minister Supa Mandiwanzira recently claiming before Parliament that Masiyiwa was likely using his Zimbabwe operations to challenge Mugabe for the presidency in next year’s elections.
Mugabe is 93 this February, evidently frail of mind and body, and yet refusing to retire or countenance talk of his succession. The subject and impatience of would-be successors have left the ruling party bitterly divided.
Not a favouritte of the Harare regime … Econet Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa
Top aides manipulate the aged leader’s notorious paranoia about supposed coups; they know that to get into Mugabe’s good graces one needs only allege a plot to remove him from office; ditto Mandiwanzira’s charge regarding Econet and the recent farce over the so-called “mug-treason”.
Opening up Sunday, Gono who was seen as the First Family’s banker but surprisingly failed with a bid for mainstream politics after leaving the RBZ, revealed how rivals employed against him the still unexplained regime distrust of Masiyiwa.
“The last straw was when in January 2012, I returned from leave only to be confronted with bank supervision documents and a very mischievous and technically misleading report which had been ‘anonymously’ sent to a number of Politburo and Central Committee members, senior Government officials, security arms of the State and some Members of Parliament,” he explained.
“… the report alleged) that my approval of EcoCash money transfer system was a political project by Strive Masiyiwa and myself to prop up opposition political parties so they could defeat Zanu PF in the 2013 harmonised elections by creating a parallel central bank that would mint money and transfer it to the rural voting public in return for votes.”
He continued: “The effect was to draw daggers against me and I became a marked man.
“So started the plot to bring down the governor by all means possible and usually, when a dirty job is to be done, there is no better person to do it than someone believed to be close, be it as a friend, a brother, sister, close relatives or workmate.
“Strategies to clone my voice were hatched and supposed recordings of me talking to MDC-T leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, letters with my forged signature of purported plots to destabilise Zanu PF (were created).”
Gono, who left the RBZ in 2013 and saw his bid for the Senate on a Zanu PF ticket collapse in 2014, said claims were also made linking him to purported assassination plots against Mugabe.
“Purported attempts to poison and kill army generals and harm the President started to surface and made rounds in certain key offices.
“Some of these offices, out of genuine ignorance of these techniques, believed the plots as contained in the fake letters and my supposed voice.
“Day in day out, I wasted time managing rumour, suspicion and disenchantment caused by such a programme of disinformation and assassination of my character instead of focusing on national challenges.
“The atmosphere became poisoned and untenable but I could not put my hands on exactly who was behind those schemes.”
Since leaving the RBZ and hitting a brick wall with his bid for the Senate, Gono has concentrated on his businesses while Kereke was jailed for rape.