Underfire Ministry of Finance permanent Secretary, George Guvamatanga has broken his silence and defended his lavish lifestyle.

“First of all, let me put things into context,” Guvamatanga told the Standard 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. Now, if I paid US$3 million, ndakasara nemarii? (How much remained in my account?).

“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.

“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 than 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 the life. 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 stayed with for many years, and I bought her a house.”