April 16, 2009
Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is reported to be adamant he will not disappoint Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono, despite the pressure exerted by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on him to sideline his loyal ally from a strategic position at the central bank.
The MDC has pushed for Gono’s removal from the helm at the RBZ on the basis that his recent re-appointment was irregular, as it was made outside the agreed consultative agreement as enshrined in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by Zanu-PF and the two MDCs.
Mugabe signed the agreement as Zanu-PF leader, while Morgan Tsvangirai signed as president of the mainstream MDC and Professor Arthur Mutambara weighed in as leader of the smaller faction of the MDC.
Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, the chief architect of the push for Gono’s removal, once described the central bank governor as “the country’s Number One enemy” and also as an economic saboteur.
Sources say recent efforts to heal the rift between Gono and Biti have yielded very little as the MDC secretary-general has insisted that Gono should go.
The two held a press briefing recently where they attempted to feed the media the line that they were “two sides of the same coin” and to dismiss reports that they were fighting as “mere media speculation aimed at fitting into the matrix of establishing a rift between us”.
There were few takers, given the well-documented litany of exchanges between the two officials, mainly emanating from the office of the minister.
Sources close to the cabinet say Mugabe was expected to put up a spirited defence of Gono during a meeting to discuss the outstanding issues in relation to the implementation of the Global Political Agreement.
Gorden Moyo, the Minister of State in Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s office told The Zimbabwe Times yesterday the issue of Gono was regarded as one of the issues still outstanding.
“The issue of the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been set aside for discussion by the three principals. It was not a matter for discussion in the cabinet meeting today (Wednesday) as previously speculated.
“There is a meeting of the principals that will be convened soon where Gono’s issue, the Attorney General, and that of the appointment of permanent secretaries, ambassadors and other appointments will be discussed.”
The sources said Mugabe would stick to his well defined stance because Gono is viewed as Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s only pillar of strength financially through diverting funds from core RBZ activities to Mugabe’s party.
“It is going to be a rough ride between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. Gono’s removal will be difficult because the President calls on him time and again to help Zanu-PF with funding,” said one source close to cabinet.
“He is likely to defend him to the last and ensure that the MDC fizzles out in its war against Gono.”
Another source said Mugabe would put his foot down on the matter, relying on the argument that it would be costly to reverse Gono’s appointment contractually. He would suggest that the governor should be allowed to remain in office for the lifespan of his contract following which a replacement would then be appointed.
The source said the proposal would not go down well with the MDC which is currently trying to raise funds to foot the civil service salary bill. Some potential donors have stated unequivocally that Gono must depart before they can open their purse-strings.
The salary bill in question currently stands at US$23 million per month.
“We understand the President has asked the MDC whether it has the financial resources to underwrite the termination of Gono’s contract, given that it still has about three to four years to run. The answer has not been forthcoming given that there is no money in the treasury to foot such an expensive project,” the source added.
Although Gono has come under fire from MDC parliamentarians for his quasi-fiscal operations, he has apparently endeared himself to the same parliamentarians who were criticizing him.
Two weeks ago, he held a briefing where he explained his position on the quasi-fiscal operations - explanations this newspaper understands were not opposed by a single legislator.
It is understood most of the legislators concurred with Gono that his activities were aimed at saving Zimbabwe’s collapsed economy.
Last week, Gono announced that the Reserve Bank had offered vehicles to legislators for use while they waited for Parliament to procure its own fleet.
It is alleged that the vehicles created serious division within the MDC, with some of the legislators rushing to grab one despite warnings from the MDC leadership that the party would expel any legislator who took possession of any RBZ vehicle.