HARARE – Special Economic Zones (SEZ) board chairperson Gideon Gono has cleared the air on the “mysterious” bag belonging to a Singaporean national which led to accusations that the former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) boss had shielded his visitors from security checks at the airport when they arrived in Harare on Sunday.
It turned out that the Singaporean who had wrongly been said to be a Chinese national was the director of the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) which signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with SEZ on Tuesday.
Gono was prompted to explain the airport “incident” following a social media broadcast by activist Farai Maguwu who claimed that he had assisted Chinese nationals in ‘‘escaping” security checks at the airport.
“I saw Gideon Gono at Harare International Airport today (Sunday) shortly after he had disembarked from Air Zimbabwe from Johannesburg,” Maguwu claimed in his post.
“Gono was in the company of about five Chinese nationals.
“One of the Chinese was holding a swollen handbag. As they approached immigration, Gono took the handbag from that Chinese woman and he passed through the diplomatic counter whilst the Chinese passed through visitors’ counter. When the Chinese had passed the counter, Gono handed her back the handbag,” alleged Maguwu.
But Gono shredded Maguwu’s allegations during the signing ceremony of the MoU between Zimbabwe and SCE on Tuesday.
“The trouble with people whose lives revolve around controversy is that everything they see must be controversial. If their lives revolve around smuggling, then everything they see must have been smuggled. God forbid!” said Gono, showing the bag that had lots of business documents which he said therefore made it look “fat.”
He said it was part of good etiquette to welcome senior government officials from other countries at the airport and to take them through VIP routes.
In this case, the VIP route, it was learnt, had been cleared with the Foreign Affairs ministry via the Office of the President and Cabinet two days prior to the arrival of the five-member delegation.
Gono, as chairperson of SEZ, was at the airport to perform his official duties in the company of other government officials, State security, immigration authorities and one other SEZ board member who accompanied the chairperson to the airport to receive the delegation from Singapore.
“First of all, you say I was coming from South Africa on Sunday; I have never been out of the country for the last two months, so it’s false.
“Number two, that I smuggled some Chinese ladies, she is not Chinese she is Singaporean. Furthermore, what you are referring to is this bag here,” he said holding up a bag that apparently belonged to the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise director, Neo Poh Ling.
Maguwu is not new to stirring controversy as he has had running battles with government over a number of unsubstantiated allegations that got him arrested more than two years ago for falsely accusing certain officials of wrongdoing.