Finance Ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga, under-fire for throwing a lavish 50th birthday bash when millions wallow in poverty, has taken a rather stuck-up approach, opening up on his copious riches that have seen him buy his maid a house.
Guvamatanga, a former managing director with Barclays Zimbabwe, told the media he amassed a lot of his wealth when he worked for the bank over a 30-year period and cannot be unfairly judged on the three years in which he has been ministry boss.
During his bash, whose visual images went viral, Guvamatanga is said to have pledged to pay musicians who performed at the party, five times what they had charged.
The cattle rancher also said he could not pretend to be poor when his pockets were brimming with US dollars.
He also said he was so rich that he once bought his maid a house.
Guvamatanga said his birthday bash, in which he invited top South African musicians to perform, was motivated by his near-death experience early this year in which he and family members suffered Covid-19.
He survived after being put on oxygen.
Below are his comments.
“First of all, let me put it into context,” he said.
“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.”
Guvamatanga added, “I worked for a huge 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 tax payers during my stint at Barclays Bank.
“I paid between US$2 million and US$3 million in taxes, the records are there.
“Now, if I paid US$3 million, ndakasara nemarii (How much could I have been left with).
“My package at Barclays, including my bonus was US$3 million.
“It is all above board. I have a known offshore account, and have interests across most sectors of the economy, from insurance to agriculture to distribution and others.”
Guvamatanga said he also got his wealth through his massive cattle ranching project.
“I will need to take you to my farm, I have 1 200 cattle.
“My business interest and wealth are known and everything has been declared.
“I cannot pretend to be poor
“Most of my cattle fetch not less that US$2 500 (each), and I sell 500 cattle per annum.
“So why can’t I celebrate life.
“I planned for this party after my near death experience with Covid-19.
“So, what I am doing is celebrating life.”
He continued, “I can’t stop my wife and children from organising the party because they said when you reach 50 years, we will need to celebrate because of what happened.
“I cannot pretend to be poor to make people happy.
“I am not poor.
“I am so surprised that people are judging me with the three years that I have been a civil servant instead of the 30 years that I worked for Barclays.
“I am doing national service in government.
“I have a trust that is paying the bills for a cancer patient, an amount more than what was paid to the artists.
“And I have a maid who I have stay with for many years and I bought her a house.”
Quotes on this story taken from The Standard Newspaper