RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono has apologised to suspended Zimbabwe Mirror Newspapers Group CEO and editor-in-chief Ibbo Mandaza for engineering the take-over of his papers by
the intelligence service.
Sources said Gono, who was key in the state apparatus’ leveraged buy-out of the Mirror papers, told Mandaza at a meeting he was “very sorry” for what had happened. The meeting took place on September 26.
It is understood Gono said he did not know the deal between the security department and Mandaza would end up with the founder of the group being ousted from the company.
“There was a recent meeting – the only one so far since the media story started – between Gono and Mandaza at the central bank offices over the issue of the newspaper take-over,” a source said. “The two discussed the issue at length and Gono apologised to Mandaza for leading him into the current situation at the Mirror.”
Sources said Mandaza was exasperated but grudgingly accepted the situation as a fait accompli.
“Mandaza was very disappointed with Gono but he accepted what has happened and decided to move on,” a source said. “To the best of my knowledge, that was the only meeting the two have had since the media story broke out. It appears their relationship will be strained for a long time, if not forever, over this issue.”
Although it was not possible to get a comment from Gono and Mandaza, sources confirmed the issue.
“It looks like Mandaza was put in a tight spot by Gono who brought the intelligence service into the deal without realising it and this inevitably created tension between them,” another source said. “In the end Gono had to apologise to Mandaza. Though he had betrayed his trust in him, the mission had been accomplished.”
The Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has taken over the Mirror’s two titles, the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, and the Financial Gazette through a front ownership structure using public funds.
Gono was also instrumental in the take-over of the Financial Gazette.
The state security agency has influence in other media organisations and is still trying to expand its interests in a bid to win the battle for hearts and minds.
Mediagate, as the newspaper take-over saga is now known, has sucked in President Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
A CIO shelf company, Unique World Investments, and another CIO-linked firm, Zistanbal Investments, in which Gono is said to have an interest, control 70% of Mirror shareholding. Mandaza had 30% but this has been taken over as well.
In terms of the new shareholding structure, Unique now has 72% and Zistanbal 28%. The two companies are trying to recapitalise the Mirror group. The company two weeks ago received $10 billion from the central bank, bringing the total amount in public funds it has got from the bank to $30 billion.