Zanu PF abandons Gono

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono’s battle to save foreign-owned banks from Zanu PF’s indigenisation crusade has suffered a major blow after government gazetted new regulations ordering such banks to cede their majority shares to locals.\r\n

The regulations, contained in a Government Gazette published last Friday, effectively mean that Gono is now at the mercy of Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who last week went into a rage when this paper asked him to comment on his feud with the governor.

Gono and Kasukuwere have exchanged bitter words over the minister’s insistence that foreign-owned banks must sell their stakes to locals after forcing major mining companies to do the same. 

The RBZ chief has argued that such a move would be a final nail on Zimbabwe’s comatose economy, but the move to gazette the regulations could mean that Zanu PF has left him out in the cold. 

He, however, has support from Finance minister Tendai Biti, who yesterday insisted that Kasukuwere’s mode of indigenisation of banks would not work.
Biti maintained that the government position on banks had not changed.

“Gono is out of the country at the moment and when he comes back, we will hold a joint Press conference to announce that nothing has changed and that banks will not be touched,” he said.

“The central bank and the Ministry of Finance have always said the banks are sufficiently indigenised . . . so we should protect the goose that lays the golden egg.” 

Gono, who once warned against “dishing out threats to sensitive institutions that are custodians of people’s hard-earned savings”, had all along boasted that he had support from Zanu PF’s presidium in the fight to save banks from indigenisation. 

He revealed this at a function where he sat alongside Vice-President John Nkomo in Bulawayo early this year. 

He described Kasukuwere’s statements on banks as a sign of “irrational exuberance during these times of necessary soberness”.

“Tendencies towards firing harmful verbal economic gunpowder must be minimised by all stakeholders in the interest of the economy and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe board forewarns people playing with economic gunpowder to leave the game to those well-trained in its use and safe custody, lest the unintended will happen, to everyone’s future regret,” Gono once warned.

Kasukuwere hit back at Gono saying: “We cannot run a nation based on profane language. 

“Let’s respect the laws of the land and not personalise issues.” 

Kasukuwere has received support from Zanu PF-linked politicians and activists who claim the banking sector must not be treated as a sacred cow. 

Mugabe — who has stood behind Gono even after demands by his inclusive government partners that he be relieved of his duties — has steered clear from commenting about the banks.

A top Zanu PF insider, who refused to be named, dismissed Kasukuwere as “a daydreamer”.

“He has been talking about indigenisation since 2009, but nothing tangible has really happened,” the source said.

“This is just an aspiration and we can only say there is indigenisation when someone has paid up and there is a transfer of shares. There is no money. Who has $300 million to pay for Zimplats shares? Who has $30 million to buy Stanchart?” 

He said companies that had indigenised like Schweppes had done so voluntarily with local consortiums pooling resources to buy shares.

Mugabe has said the indegenisation programme is a way of hitting back at countries that imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe.  – NewsDay