Vice-President Joshua Nkomo and former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith have been named in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International report published in October by the United States Congress after a four-year investigation into the activities of the now defunct BCCI.
Nkomo is reported to have been paid money in return for political favours at the same time President Mugabe is also said to have been paid. The report, however, says it is not clear whether Smith was paid any money by BCCI but the Rhodesian government was probably taking care of that.
Permanent Secretary for Information, Sarah Kachingwe has since denied that the country’s top leaders were paid any money by BCCI. Enos Chiura, Chairman of the now renamed Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe has also denied the bribery allegations.
Three officials of BCCI who gave evidence to the congressional committee headed by Senator John Kerry, however, told the committee that, the two leaders were paid the money and it looks the transaction was done in London.
Nazir Chinoy, Akbar Bilgrami and Abdur Sakhia all said they were certain the Zimbabwean leaders were paid. It was Bilgrami’s testimony that Mugabe and Nkomo were paid. He says he was at the Park Lane Branch of BCCI and the bank was asked to meet the expenses of the Zimbabwean delegation in London.
“We paid Mugabe and Nkomo,” the report quotes him as saying. “I was at the Park Lane Branch. BCC was approached to look after the expenses of the delegates which were paid. In addition we paid 500 000 pounds from the Park Lane branch …. I don’t think that Ian Smith was getting paid by us. I think that the Rhodesian government was taking care of him. That was in 1980-81.” Although there is some confusion as to when the money was actually paid with some reports saying it may have been paid prior to independence, the testimony before the committee seems to refute this. It says the money was paid to Mugabe as Prime Minster and Nkomo as leader of opposition.
While Mugabe became Prime Minister in April 1980, Nkomo, though leader of ZAPU, which should have been the main opposition party was in fact party of the first Zimbabwean government. It was only after ZAPU was expelled from the government after the 1982 discovery of arms caches at ZAPU properties that Nkomo became leader of the opposition.
Chiura’s denial of the bribery allegations carried in Parade shows that he too might not have fully understood BCCI’s operations. His reply read: “I have been chairman of this bank since July 1981 and I officiated at the official opening. Those people who were mentioned as having made bribery allegations have never been to Zimbabwe. We never saw these guys. I have the guest list to prove it.”
According to the testimony by the BCCI employees the payments were allegedly made in London.
While the two documents which give the synopsis of the BCCI investigations were freely available to the public at the United States Information Service Library prior to the publication of the story in Parade – – which deleted the names of the persons involved – – they are now restricted. People can read them but they are no longer allowed to make copies.