Pressure for Gono to go gathers momentum

HARARE – Gideon Gono, the rogue governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, seems determined to cling to his job amid mounting opposition clamour for his removal.

Zimbabwe’s economy cannot recover without outside support but it seems that for as long as Gono is in charge, Western donors will be deeply reluctant to fund the new government.

Asked if Gono’s sacking was a necessary step before aid was released, a prominent Western diplomat said: "Everyone knows it is. It’s one of the key indices [of whether Zimbabwe is a fit recipient of aid]. [Morgan] Tsvangirai has said it is one of the first things he will do."

As controller of the country’s finances since 2003 Gono has played a key role in fundraising for President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party, printing money with reckless abandon to sustain the Mugabe administration’s profligate spending. As recently as February 2 the central bank knocked 12 zeros off the local currency and introduced seven new notes.

Gono’s policies have been one of the main drivers of the country’s hyperinflation, officially more than 231-million percent, but estimated by independent analysts to be 6,5-quindecillion novemdecillion percent, or 65 followed by 107 zeros.

Gono’s mandate was renewed for a second five-year term in December 2008, sparking opposition outrage. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Tsvangirai announced on January 30 that he would join an inclusive government as prime minister, but demanded that Gono be removed from his position before he takes the oath of office on February 11.

As the MDC announced its decision to join the government, Gono was reportedly meeting Mugabe, seeking assurances that he will keep his job. He has come out with all guns blazing, receiving acres of editorial space in the state-controlled media dismissing calls for his removal.

"I am aware that there are some both locally and externally who have been and are calling for my head for whatever reasons, but the seriousness of the matters at hand requires that any level-headed individual ignore such petty calls and rise above trivialities," Gono is quoted in a lengthy front-page article in The Sunday Mail on February 1.

"Many Zimbabweans agree that over the past five years, the Reserve Bank’s various programmes, in many ways helped Zimbabwe forestall and foreclose total collapse amid the tightening grip of the illegal sanctions imposed on the country."

Leading economist John Robertson said: "it appears Gono still does not understand the source of the country’s economic problems, as he continues to claim Zimbabwe is under an economic embargo", when in fact the so-called sanctions comprise a travel ban on regime officials and an arms embargo banning the sale of military hardware to Zimbabwe, which has been used to put down peaceful opposition protests.

Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR-trained reporter in Zimbabwe