UNDERFIRE Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga has struck a defiant tone after fierce criticism over his 50th birthday bash in Harare where he invited top performers from South Africa.
The top civil servant slipped into the vortex of a big storm on Friday after video clips emerged of him showing off his fortune and pledging to multiply by five the money that had been agreed for Louis Mhlanga, the South African based superstar to perform at the decorated bash.
Zimbabweans, frustrated by high level corruption and plunder by politicians and their cronies, linked the decorated flamboyance by Guvamatanga to his powerful position as finance director of the country.
In a no holds barred interview with The Standard, Guvamatanga, a former managing director of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe before it was taken over by AMB Capital in 2017, reminded his adversaries that he spent 30 years with the international lender, earning millions.
Millions more were paid out as packages when he left the bank, now rebranded to Capital Bank, in 2017 after an attempt to take it over flopped.
Barclay Plc, which was divesting out of several African markets, settled for the Malawi headquartered AMB Capital, instead of a consortium of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed bank’s management, which was led by Guvamatanga.
He was then invited to join government following the coup that brought down strongman, Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
Guvamatanga’s huge fortune is in addition to a thriving cattle herd being reared over swathes of prime land at his farm, which he said generates not less than US$1,2 million a year.
Apparently, planning for the expensive birthday feast had begun last year, when the top civil servant was caught up in the Covid-19 rage.
He spent many days under artificial oxygen after contracting the disease during the first few months, as the pandemic tore through regions, threatening lives, destroying economies and leaving a trail of destruction.
“First of all, let me put things into context,” Guvamatanga said by phone from Victoria Falls yesterday.
“The issue of saying the artistes were paid more is not correct.
“The clip was quoted out of context.
“I was saying to Louis Mhlanga, one of Zimbabwe’s most decorated musicians that if I had the money, I would have paid five times more than we agreed.
“It was a tribute to Louis Mhlanga.
“You know that I cannot take foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and spend it like this.
“I worked for a big international bank for 30 years and I was paid in offshore accounts.
“There are millions in that account.“Others avoid paying taxes when they are paid through offshore accounts, but Barclays was strict.
“And if you ask Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) they will tell you that I was one of the biggest taxpayers during my stint at Barclays Bank.“I paid between US$2 million and US$3 million in taxes, the records are there.