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Gono Reappointment Angers MDC

Opposition says extension of central banker’s term breaches deal on unity government.
By Jabu Shoko
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week said the reappointment of Gideon Gono to the post of central bank governor was the most recent sign of lack of good faith by Robert Mugabe in the stalled power-sharing arrangements.

Last week, the president rewarded Gono, who has presided over one of the world’s highest inflation rates, with another five-year term as head of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, RBZ, with effect from December 1.

The re-appointment was announced on state television on November 25, much to the chagrin of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, and ordinary Zimbabweans who are battling to survive in a country where inflation is officially at 231 million per cent and unofficially over five billion per cent. On December 1, Gono introduced new high denomination currency.

Tsvangirai, leader of the main faction of the MDC, said in a statement to IWPR, “This individual has been the architect of Zimbabwe's economic collapse and has blatantly plundered the national treasury to fund ZANU-PF and its elite.

“Surely, if Mr Mugabe was genuine in his desire to address the problems facing the country he would not breach the [power-sharing] agreement by making any senior appointments unilaterally.”

The MDC leader said since his party has been allocated the finance portfolio in the envisaged coalition government, he expected Mugabe to consult the opposition in the appointment of a governor for the central bank, which the MDC blames for the prevailing banking crisis in Zimbabwe.

The controversial Gono, appointed governor of the RBZ in 2003 when the country first experienced severe cash shortages, stands accused by the opposition of fuelling the rampant inflation by wantonly printing money to fund Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government and to finance quasi-fiscal activities in aid of the regime.

Some of the foreign currency bought by the central bank from illegal foreign currency dealers has allegedly been channelled towards financing Mugabe’s state security agents who, since the emergence of the MDC, have been accused of gross human rights abuses against opposition supporters.

Gono is also claimed to have used proceeds from printing money to buy US dollars to fund, among other projects, Mugabe’s controversial land reforms. More than 400 million US dollars has reportedly been spent by Gono to procure tractors and other farming implements from China for doling out to ZANU-PF supporters.

Political analyst Mutumwa Mawere, living in exile in South Africa after his Zimbabwean business empire was forcibly seized by Mugabe, said it was unfortunate that Zimbabweans would have to endure another five years of the political manipulation at which Gono has proved to be a master.

“During his term, he has successfully been able to divert attention from the core source of the political and economic crisis by manufacturing enemies of the state. His tenure has witnessed the centralisation of executive power and the emergence of the RBZ as the super state,” said Mawere.

Mawere charged that Gono was a man preoccupied with blaming others and yet through his own actions Zimbabwe has had to endure the worst economic policies and programmes imaginable.

On November 26, barely a day after his re-appointment, Gono issued an acceptance speech in which he pledged to refocus the RBZ by sticking to the mandate of the central bank.

Gono said he would no longer dabble in quasi-financial activists, nor finance ZANU-PF. The central bank would concentrate on its main function of inflation control and financial sector stability with effect from January 2009.

“As I accept this extended call for national duty, I pledge to maintain a very tight monetary policy stance, anchored on the comprehensive realignment and streamlining of the reserve bank’s functions in a manner that leaves monetary authorities with core responsibilities of inflation targeting, management of the national payment systems and safeguarding financial sector stability,” he said.

Finance Minister Samuel Mbengegwi, who announced Gono’s re-appointment, said, "He is the best man for the job. We feel he knows what he is doing – hence the extension of his term. He has done great service to the nation, especially the financing of government projects such as land reform."

Mbengegwi said it was unfair to blame Gono for all Zimbabwe’s woes, "The problems of this country are not because of the governor but it is the sanctions imposed by America, the British and the West. Gono has been very innovative to beat the sanctions. He has done an excellent job as far as ZANU-PF and government are concerned."

Jabu Shoko is the pseudonym of an IWPR reporter in Zimbabwe.