Petulance threatens to consume unity government

HARARE – The embattled Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono issued a 20 page tabloid mini-newspaper taking the fight directly to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who are vehemently opposed to his issuing of cars to Members of Parliament, especially those from the MDC.\r\n

The statement also includes the following, towards the very end:

"The RBZ would like to advise Hon Members of Parliament that the Governor is under instruction from the Minister of Finance Hon. T.L. Biti to ask all Hon. Members of Parliament to return the second hand vehicles recently issued to them at their request by the Reserve Bank."

Gono says in the announcement that although Biti wanted the cars returned by end of today, 20 April 2009, he, Gono is "appealing to the Honourable Minister that this deadline be extended to Friday, 24 April 2009."

The cars are to parked at the Biti’s offices and the keys handed over to Biti.

However, it is the other announcements in the same statement that are bound to see this situation get out of hand.

For instance, Gono claims that Tendai Biti is also asking that all companies that benefited from foreign currency for their operations should return the same. He lists the following:

  • Lobels (Bakery Company) – US$6 million
  • National Foods: US$1.7million
  • Dairibord (Dairy company): US$1.3million
  • Megapack (Packaging Company) : US$1.2 million
  • Unilever: US$1.1million
  • Delta, Schweppes, United Refineries, Olivine, CFI: US$2.4million

In a show of pique, Gono also announced in the same document that all ministers who benefited from the vehicles issued by the RBZ should return them, saying "this will ensure that there are no double standards.."

Even more explosive is his suggestion that all farming equipment issued under the various schemes should be readied for return.

In addition, Gono is also claiming that Biti has asked him to recall debts amounting to more than US$1.1 billion advanced to various ministries, including Defence, IMF loan repayments, ZESA and others.

Clearly the idea is to make this fight wider than just between Gono and Biti, drawing in heavyweights like Mnangagwa and effectively cornering Tendai Biti and Morgan Tsvangirai.

Furthermore, the recall of the farming equipment will almost certainly be resisted by beneficiaries and could see Tendai Biti and the Prime Minister being put into an impossible situation and this is the idea behind Gono’s extraordinary show of petulance today.

It is a defiant, petulant and dangerous powder-keg that he has thrown onto the laps of the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister.

It really is no exaggeration to say that this is the start of a very explosive situation that could consume the Inclusive government and possibly mortally imperil it.

In the publication, Gono lists 38 cars that he said he has "loaned" to MPs. These include Mazda B2500 twin-cabs, Mazda BT-50 twin-cabs, Nissan Navaras and others.

Gono says Biti was out of the country when MPs approached him and begged for the cars in order to travel to their constituencies to explain Biti’s half-baked Short Term Economic Recovery Programme (STERP).

Directly contradicting both Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Nelson Chamisa, the MDC Spokesman who both called the initiative a quasi-fiscal operation, Gono says in his tabloid (which was inserted into The Herald of today, "It is critical to note, however, that the second-hand vehicles loaned to Honourable Members of Parliament do not represent new or additional quasi-fiscal operations by the RBZ."

Gono says he took the pleas of MPs to Tendai Biti and that Biti responded by saying the cars should be distributed by the Ministry of Finance. The governor goes on to say this suggestion was rejected by the MPs.

In a completely pointless exercise, Gono also lists more one thousand cars that have been distributed to various government ministries, hospitals, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Operation Maguta, Attorney General’s Office, Universities and parastatals going back to 2006.

It is his venom towards the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, however, that is thinly disguised, although the challenge to their authority is clear enough in his document.

He says, for instance, on page 19:

"The level of actual and intended persecution on the Reserve Bank, the person of the Governor of the Reserve Bank, his Team and those who supplied the bank with various products, from grain, motor vehicles to farming implements, as well as those who provided lines of credit during the period before the coming into being of the Inclusive Government, is astounding and reaching critical levels."

Gono says Biti and Tsvangirai are even suggesting that he be investigated "right down to the teaspoon….all in the name of trying to show how evil, unworthy and incompetent the Reserve Bank Governor is."

The Governor questions all this, saying this is surprising to him, "at a time when there are calls for National Healing and Inclusivity."

Speaking to Tendai Biti’s efforts to paralyse the RBZ by stripping it of all income generating avenues, Gono says, "Some authorities who must act with the minimum expected responsibility are working day and night on ways of undermining and marginalising the Reserve Bank"