After sticking his neck out in defense of the country’s economy which had come under siege from speculative attacks and the weight of other challenges spawned by hyperinflation, there has been little recognition of Gono’s efforts. If anything, armchair critics now want Gono’s head.
Gono has had to put up with a torrent of verbal abuse and threats to his life and that of his family for daring to intervene in the complex economic matrixes to keep Zimbabwe’s economy from collapse when pessimists had written it off as another candidate for the Ukrainian-type Orange Revolution.
Among Gono’s critics are failed businesspeople who are now seeking to blame their incompetence on the RBZ and scoring cheap political points to ingratiate themselves with some of the partners in the inclusive government.
There are also some political sharks and their stooges who are fighting tooth and nail to have Gono’s five-year term terminated prematurely as one of the quickest ways of dismantling President Robert Mugabe’s regime while creating space for the so-called democratic forces who view their participation in the inclusive government as an important step towards achieving change. And yet there are also some in ZANU-PF who, in the cover of darkness run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. In their wisdom or lack of it, Gono who has been telling anyone who cares to listen that he harbored no political ambitions could spring up a surprise in the race to succeed the incumbent and hence they are also sharpening their spears.
What is strange about the shrill calls for Gono’s exit is that a number of those at the forefront of attacking his person and the integrity of the RBZ are fugitives who skipped the country to evade the long arm of the law after being fingered in various economic crimes. Their intention is quite clear. They want to negotiate their freedom by intimidating those who are privy to their misdemeanors.
One unlikely quarter taking aim at Gono is the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (EMCOZ). Its leader, David Govere, took advantage of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, which ended in Bulawayo last week to smear Gono, alleging that the free rein the RBZ governor is perceived to have enjoyed contributed to the current economic crisis. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While we hold no brief for the central bank governor, we find it strange that Govere could pontificate his views as if they are EMCOZ’s. The least EMCOZ and indeed the rest of the business community could do is to tell the truth.
Only last year company executives stampeded to the central bank seeking assistance to survive a worsening economic crisis. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, whose members are also affiliated to EMCOZ, had to plead for vehicles to effectively discharge its advocacy role. In all these instances, Gono obliged knowing fully well the catastrophic effects company closures would have had on the country.
The National Railways of Zimbabwe, which Govere represents, was also assisted by the RBZ in several ways.
What is becoming clear is that some in the business community are becoming entangled in pet political projects.
Following the signing of the power-sharing agreement in September last year attitudes have been hardening in certain quarters. There are those who see the establishment of the all-inclusive government as an opportunity to eliminate those they see as standing in their way.
A self-made man of humble beginnings, Gono’s biggest mistake, it would appear, was to respond to national call by taking up the challenge of heading the RBZ during the early stages of the economic meltdown. Gono had to forego a more rewarding job at CBZ, an institution he turned around from the brink of closure. He succeeded in slowing down inflation in the first year of assuming his new assignment at the RBZ before the inflation monster became immune to economic prescriptions.
It was at this juncture that it became apparent to all and sundry that the economic meltdown was not going to recede unless concerted efforts were made to deal with its genesis – bad politics.
But even then, Gono went out of his way, thinking outside the box and devising a cocktail of strategies to keep the country going. These included the Agriculture Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility, the Basic Commodity Supply Side Intervention programme, the Farm Mechanisation Programme and a whole menu of other incentives which benefited the real sector.
Where were these arch critics who are now finding pleasure in finger-pointing and throwing brickbats at the time Gono and his team at the RBZ were working themselves to a standstill?
Fortunately, Zimbabweans can see through their political shenanigans.
To blame the economic meltdown on Gono is hypocrisy of the worst order.
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis started way back in 1997 when the RBZ was still under Leonard Tsumba. Not that Tsumba had anything to do with it.
Following the unbudgeted gratuity payments to war veterans in September 1997, the Zimbabwe dollar went on to lose nearly half its value in what came to be known as the Black Friday of November 1997. From then on, all hell broke loose.
The country’s intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo compounded by the effects of the haphazard land reform in 2000 which decimated agricultural production, the engine of Zimbabwe’s economy, worsened the crisis.
What Gono had merely done, which is now being copied in the western world following the global financial crisis, was to innovate to ensure Zimbabwe does not collapse into a recessionary heap while the political leadership was wrangling.
Gono’s advice on pertinent issues fell on deaf ears, including his passionate plea for government, business and labour to conclude the social contract.
It was only in January when part of his advice was eventually taken up, resulting in the de-regulation of the country’s economy.
Now that the country has gone over the crest and is now poised for takeoff there are those who now seek to assume strategic positions in the new political dispensation by pulling down those they perceive to have been propping up President Mugabe’s regime. In their scheme of things, Gono is the prime target.
But this game of name calling and finger pointing could poison the inclusive government and plunge the country back into the abyss.
During the period when the political gladiators were fighting to protect their turf, Gono became the voice for the voiceless. His advice left little space for the strict hierarchy. He challenged conservative thinking.
But because not many have long memories, narrow minds now wish to see Gono crucified instead of the real Barabases, who were working round the clock to sabotage the country’s economy.
This Editorial comment was written by the Financial Gazett Editor. The Reserve Bank Govenor Gideon Gono owns the weekly newspaper.