"Firebrand" Biti falls into Robert Mugabe's pockets

HARARE – Finance Minister Tendai Biti has dismissed reports that there is bad blood between him and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono, saying they actually have a cordial working relationship.\r\n

Addressing a joint Press conference with Dr Gono in Harare yesterday, Minister Biti said reports of animosity between them were mere fabrications of some sections of the Press, which did not reflect the actual state of affairs.

He said even online news sites were awash with falsehoods about his relationship with the central bank chief.

"This is what you guys in the media do to sell your papers. The Reserve Bank is a statutory body set up in terms of the RBZ Act while the Ministry of Finance is in charge of the exchequer so we can’t have an economy without fiscal and monetary policies working together."

Reports of a sour relationship between the two have worsened in recent weeks following the appointment of Minister Biti, with many claiming that the Finance Minister was baying for Dr Gono’s blood.

The two are said to be clashing on many policy issues, which Minister Biti dismissed as untrue.

"There is a tendency in the media to draw us into the matrix of negatives when, in fact, the positives far outweigh the negative," he said.

He said achievements over the past few weeks were enough to tell the story that the authorities were at work and were keen on seeing the economy ticking again.

Dr Gono also dismissed the reports as falsehoods saying the central bank was an arm of the Ministry of Finance.

"The Minister of Finance is my boss. We are just different sides of the same coin. More often than not we read reports in the Press that are far from the truth. We know that good news does not sell newspapers (so journalists fabricate negative stories to sell their newspapers)," said Dr Gono.

He also took the opportunity to correct what had turned out to be "a storm in a teacup" when some sections of the media castigated him for offering vehicles to Members of Parliament.

He said contrary to media reports, the cars on offer were not new but second-hand vehicles that had clocked up to 170 000km in mileage. These had been used under the central bank’s quasi-fiscal operations, which functions had now reverted back to the respective ministries.

Dr Gono said his offer was in response to pleas by the MPs during last week’s meeting for them to use the vehicles as they awaited new ones from the Ministry of Finance.

"In fact, I was very explicit that the bank stood advised by the central bank board and the Minister of Finance on whether or not to field the idle used cars to honourable MPs.

"This just goes to show how some of us are electing to be masters of sowing needless negativity among us through misreporting and radiation of issues out of context," said Dr Gono.

Investigations have shown that between December 1 2003 and March 31 2009 the central bank had supported ministries, parastatals, local authorities, universities and hospitals with more than 850 vehicles.

Furthermore, a number of Cabinet ministers from all the three political parties have this year benefited from stocks of new vehicles that were held by the central bank, further causing discomfort to some legislators who felt the recent outcry about using the second-hand RBZ cars was unfair on them.

"It is insulting to insinuate that as MPs we are so low and cheap in our moral standing to be biased as a result of using second-hand cars. No ministry in this country has not benefited from RBZ cars and yet today we hear people saying it will compromise our independence," quipped one MP.