Pun­ish me if I’m wrong: Gumbo

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - INTERVIEW - Dr Jo­rum Gumbo

En­ergy and Power De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Dr Jo­rum Gumbo has come un­der scru­tiny over the last few weeks, not only for the on­go­ing fuel short­ages af­fect­ing the coun­try, but also for the time he spent as Trans­port and In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter from 2015. Last week, The Sun­day Mail’s Lin­coln Towindo sought his views on the con­tentious is­sues.

WHEN I was ap­pointed Trans­port Min­is­ter in Septem­ber 2015, I found that the road sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try was very bad.

I in­tended to make sure that our roads were traf­fi­ca­ble. I also looked at the Na­tional Rail­ways of Zim­babwe and Air Zim­babwe.

Those were the three pri­or­ity ar­eas I was man­dated by the then Pres­i­dent (Robert Mu­gabe) to look into im­me­di­ately.

Zi­nara

Re­gard­ing Zi­nara, which is an is­sue that keeps on com­ing up in the pa­pers, I looked at the money they were get­ting and I found that very lit­tle money was go­ing to­wards road re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­con­struc­tion. The bulk of the col­lec­tions were go­ing to­wards re­pay­ments.

I also toured the whole coun­try and dis­cov­ered that there were some projects that had been done by the Min­istry through Zi­nara, but the ten­ders were awarded pro­ce­du­rally.

Most of the projects were paid for and were not done. I or­dered a foren­sic au­dit through the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral, who ap­pointed Grant Thorn­ton to do the foren­sic au­dit.

They did the au­dit and pre­sented the draft re­port be­fore pre­sent­ing the fi­nal re­port to the min­istry. I looked at it and took it to the then Pres­i­dent, be­fore ap­point­ing an in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee to an­a­lyse the re­port and rec­om­mend the way for­ward.

I did so out of the de­sire to be seen as not work­ing against in­di­vid­u­als.

They an­a­lysed the re­port and came up with rec­om­men­da­tions on top of the rec­om­men­da­tions from the au­di­tors. This was now in 2018. I called the board (which was dif­fer­ent from the one that was au­dited) and gave them the re­port and di­rected them to come up with ac­tions on the way for­ward. Be­fore I did that, I had in­formed Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa about ev­ery­thing.

The board looked into the re­ports and came up with the way for­ward. They were sup­posed to hand over their find­ings to me, but now elec­tions were due so I de­clined the re­port and told them they would give it to (who­ever was ap­pointed) the min­is­ter af­ter the elec­tions.

Then there is the is­sue that I un­pro­ce­du­rally got al­lowances from Zi­nara.

When I came to the min­istry, we di­rected Zi­nara to bud­get for coun­try­wide road mon­i­tor­ing tours. The tours were con­ducted be­tween Fri­day and Sun­day us­ing money from Zi­nara. This was never about me get­ting an al­lowance from Zi­nara, but this was money that was bud­geted for and for ev­ery­one who toured with us.

The ac­cu­sa­tions are false and ma­li­cious. Now peo­ple are say­ing I am re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing cor­rupt peo­ple at Zi­nara, but I am the one who ini­ti­ated the foren­sic au­dit.

I am the one who ex­posed all this.

Air Zim­babwe

In 2012, Gov­ern­ment de­cided to de­clare Air Zim­babwe in­sol­vent.

When I came into the min­istry, I was tasked with find­ing a part­ner for Air Zim­babwe, as well as un­bun­dle Caaz.

I ap­proached Ethiopian Air­ways. They told me that they could not part­ner us be­cause we had bad books; they wanted to take over our routes but they did not want to do busi­ness with us. We also ap­proached Kenyan Air­ways, Egyp­tian Air­ways, and the re­sponses were all the same.

We how­ever got an en­cour­ag­ing re­sponse for Air Malaysia. We then trav­elled to Malaysia with the then Pres­i­dent, who was go­ing to Sin­ga­pore for his health check-ups. In Malaysia, we met with their Prime Min­is­ter who had a one-on-one dis­cus­sion with our for­mer Pres­i­dent.

Also in at­ten­dance were a team from Air Malaysia, PriceWater­house­Coop­ers, who were re­spon­si­ble for selling Air Malaysia air­planes, and our team.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions were about buy­ing or leas­ing air­planes from Air Malaysia.

Mr Mu­gabe in­tro­duced me to the Prime Min­is­ter who said to me, “Min­is­ter Gumbo do you have money?” and I said I did.

And he said, “If you have money, I am giv­ing you four planes for $70 mil­lion”. We ac­cepted.

Then Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe left for Sin­ga­pore, leav­ing us to ne­go­ti­ate. We could not agree be­cause PWC who de­manded that we pay $140 mil­lion for each plane.

They said the of­fer made by their Prime Min­is­ter was made in jest. I in­sisted that he could not make such a joke in the pres­ence of our Pres­i­dent, it was not pos­si­ble.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions broke down the fol­low­ing day and I told them that I was in­form­ing my Pres­i­dent that we had failed to agree and the Prime Min­is­ter had lied to him.

They called their Prime Min­is­ter and he said, “Sell to them at US$70 mil­lion be­cause we don’t want to see those planes again. They are cursed!”

Re­mem­ber what hap­pened to that Malaysia Air­ways flight?

The ne­go­ti­a­tions were back on track and we were joined by (Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe Gover­nor) Dr John Man­gudya and (Fi­nance) Min­is­ter Patrick Chi­na­masa who were com­ing from Amer­ica.

A let­ter of in­tent was drafted and the RBZ was asked to au­tho­rise pay­ment of $7 mil­lion so that dis­cus­sions could com­mence, and he did that. Of the four planes, two were five-years-old (and) were at $18,5 mil­lion each and the other two were selling for $16,5 mil­lion each.

The old­est was 11-years-old and in avi­a­tion, those are con­sid­ered fairly new.

We agreed that they could start ser­vic­ing them and re­brand them in our colours. We or­gan­ised to go back for a test flight when they were done with the first one. We went for the test flight and that is when all the trou­ble be­gan.

Upon land­ing, the whole world knew about Air Zim­babwe buy­ing planes. The news was that they were go­ing to be im­pounded by peo­ple we owe money.

So we were ad­vised by PWC on how to go around the is­sue by reg­is­ter­ing a leas­ing com­pany. We came and sold the idea to then Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe and he in­structed us to go and see then Vice-Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa, be­cause he would know what to do.

We then went and saw the then Vice-Pres­i­dent and told him what had hap­pened. Cde Mnan­gagwa then called in Chi­na­masa as Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and Man­gudya. We re­solved that we form a leas­ing com­pany where Man­gudya would be the trus­tee and Gov­ern­ment’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

The com­pany di­rec­tors would be from the Trans­port Min­istry. Zim Air­ways had been reg­is­tered in 2012 and the di­rec­tors were drawn from the min­istry. The prob­lem came with hav­ing di­rec­tors who were Gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees; this showed that we owned the com­pany.

That is when we re­moved them and ap­pointed new peo­ple with Man­gudya re­main­ing the trus­tee. We went back to the State Pro­cure­ment Board to reg­u­larise the is­sue of the planes which were now sup­posed to be­long to Zim Air­ways.

We, how­ever, had to keep this a se­cret and told the pub­lic that the air­planes be­longed to Zim­babwe Air­ways, which was sup­pos­edly a pri­vate com­pany.

We did this to man­age per­cep­tions and pro­tect the planes from be­ing im­pounded.

Af­ter the New Dis­pen­sa­tion came, the Pres­i­dent said we were re-en­gag­ing with the for­mer white farm­ers and we had agreed on pay­ment plans, so the planes would not be im­pounded.

There was then no need to hide be­hind the Zim­babwe Air­ways nar­ra­tive.

We were di­rected to take de­liv­ery of the first plane. Chi­na­masa and my­self were tasked with in­form­ing the na­tion that the Zim Air­ways story was a cover-up and sanc­tion-bust­ing story.

There was no longer need to keep hid­ing the planes, we had to tell the peo­ple that the planes be­longed to Gov­ern­ment.

What is in­ter­est­ing is that af­ter re­fur­bish­ment, the plane was re-eval­u­ated and its value had risen to $140 mil­lion.

So far, three have been paid for but we are yet to fin­ish pay­ing for the last one.

On the is­sue of Simba Chikowore, he was Air Zim­babwe’s COO so he was rep­re­sent­ing the air­line’s in­ter­est in the ne­go­ti­a­tions. Af­ter the mat­ter be­came pub­lic, we ad­vised him to re­sign from Air Zim to re­move any con­nec­tions with the air­line in the deal.

By then he was serv­ing no­tice of his res­ig­na­tion and he was go­ing to the Zim Air­ways sec­tion be­cause he was well qual­i­fied to do so.

Snow graders

There are graders which were bought and I have noth­ing to do with those graders.

They were bought when I was still at Par­lia­ment as Zanu-PF’s Chief Whip and they were com­mis­sioned pub­licly at Robert Mu­gabe Square.

But peo­ple are say­ing that I had a hand in their pro­cure­ment. There is also the is­sue of snow graders which were bought us­ing money from Zi­nara. I am the one who ex­posed that dur­ing a meet­ing I had with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Maron­dera.

They also had not been prop­erly pro­cured and I had to reg­u­larise that with the SPB be­cause they had al­ready been bought and dis­trib­uted.

I ex­posed all this but am now be­ing ac­cused of be­ing cor­rupt.

Be­fore the for­mer Pres­i­dent left, he would al­ways say to me “re­port to Em­mer­son”. So all th­ese lies that are be­ing ped­dled, the Pres­i­dent knows the truth.

All this non­sense won’t stick.

Un­fair

I am happy that I am one of the lucky ones who have been reap­pointed by the Pres­i­dent into Cab­i­net. I need to set the record straight so that I am not dis­tracted from ex­e­cut­ing the man­date that I have been given.

I am said to be one of the rich­est peo­ple in Zim­babwe, I am said to have re­ceived bribes for the Geiger deal. I am the one who pro­posed that we can­cel the deal and we did so.

They say that a com­pany I al­legedly co-own with my wife - JMCD - is win­ning Gov­ern­ment ten­ders be­cause I am a min­is­ter.

But the fact of the mat­ter is that I re­signed from the com­pany long be­fore the Zi­nara ten­der. JMCD has not been paid con­trary to re­ports and has de­clined 90 per­cent of the or­ders. When I look at all th­ese things I feel like there are peo­ple who are fight­ing me po­lit­i­cally and I don’t know why.

If I am wrong I will be pun­ished by God but I am sorry to say that I am not wrong. I can leave of­fice any­time if I am cor­rupt, but I have not done any­thing wrong.

I am glad that my su­pe­ri­ors know ex­actly what I do.

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