Gono should be prosecuted for shady deals during his reign

OPINION – AFTER pontificating endlessly about streamlining his Central Bank, the Governor and chairman of the board directors of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, last week (31-01-11) finally shoved more than 1 500 workers onto the streets with a paltry US$5 000 each as a retrenchment package.

Funny, how some people would want to refer this as a golden hand shake.

This would be the second time in the past decade that the repugnant Gideon Gono has cruelly condemned workers into virtual poverty, having presided over an equally callous retrenchment exercise when he was chairman of the Zimbabwe Broadcast Centre’s (ZBC) board of directors sometime in 2001. He set a precedent then as most of the ZBC retrenchees never got their money while some died without having received their packages. It is this precedent, which the retrenched employees are afraid will ominously engulf them.

At the beginning of December last year, before the retrenchment process was barely underway at the central bank, the publicity loving Gono was already in the press spluttering very elaborate and confidential information of the retrenchment procedures for the whole world to hear.

The egocentric Governor was then quoted by the media saying, "It (retrenchment) has to have a human face to it and has to be in line with the country’s labour laws and we can not do things that are out of sight with industry’s standards."

Gono, however conveniently forgot to mention that he was throwing not retrenching 1 500 workers onto the streets with a measly US$5 000 instead of their total retrenchment package as required by law with empty promises that the remainder would follow in two installments over the next six moths. The retrenchment exercise at the RBZ will go down in the archives of Zimbabwe’s history as the biggest yet strangest retrenchment exercise of all time.

The pretentious Governor also probably forgot to tell the whole world that there was never consensus at all between the board and the workers over the formula of the retrenchment package. And what he refers to as mutual deliberations between workers and the board, is what his board forced down on workers in the take-it or leave-it fashion.

According to the Labour Act, if an employer fails to give a retrenchee his full retrenchment package in the same manner Gono and his board did, the employer is obliged by law to pay the employer a salary until such time the package has fully been settled. But no, Gono, who promised the whole world the retrenchment exercise would be guided by fairness, is not telling the same world that he has shut out the retrenched workers from the fortress that is RBZ with only a portion of their package. The US$5 000 that he has dispatched the workers with, is what staff were owed in back-pay for 2009 and not a portion of the retrenchment package as the Gono led board would want the world to believe.

From get-go to finish, the whole retrenchment negotiation process was flawed and Gono and his board never climbed down from their arrogant attitude which they exuded from the beginning.

Efforts by the workers to negotiate for a decent package so they could start meaningful projects once they joined the ranks of the unemployed were met with deaf ears, leaving many to workers to conclude that board had a predetermined position before the negotiation process even got under way. What miffs many workers is that while Gono and his board refused to move an inch from the 1 month salary they approved as the retrenchment formula for virtually everything, the same board went home in September 2010 with up to US$8 000 each as board fees from only five months of sittings.  

Gono pocketed the second highest pay check of US$8 000 but he wants someone who has worked for the bank for 30 years to face the jungle that is the world of unemployment with a mere US$5 000. Reserve Bank workers and their families have not lived decent lives during the past 2 years during which they have earned US$150 a month.

Whilst the generality of the workers were shown the door in the hushed up exercise, Gono retained his entire leadership hierarchy with whom he brought the bank to its knees. Gono, also bizarrely retained the entire worker’s committee representatives who "negotiated" the package on behalf of the workers – undoubtedly as payment for selling out and misrepresenting their constituencies.

In a new organogram that became effective February, Gono kept most of his senior staff except two, who were reportedly shown the door after falling out of favour with him. In the new bank structure, the central bank will now have five core divisions, each headed by a senior division chief. Despite the fact that the bank has trimmed its divisions, all but two senior managers have mysteriously retained their posts as division chiefs in a move that leaves the bank in its prior top heavy situation.

Among those that have lost divisions but have been inexplicably retained are Mirirayi Chiremba, former senior division chief of the bank’s financial intelligence and anti-money laundering unit; Dr Millicent Mombeshora,and Elliot Rwatirera, former division of I.T, all well known Gono protégés, whose posts have been created in the so-called Governor’s office.

January the month that workers were retrenched was reportedly one of the busiest of months RBZ has ever witnessed in recent years, with incessant jostling for positions. 

Dr Kereke, Dr Mombeshora, and Chiremba in that order and choice have always been Gono’s right hand men. It is these protagonists that he used to mastermind and loot the country’s resources and he has always handsomely rewarded them for their loyalty. Insiders say these guys know know a lot about Gono and his shenanigans, so there was no way he was going to let them go before his term of office expires.

A day after the fateful retrenchment, Gono was in the Herald pretending in his usual propaganda style that the exercise was smooth and mutual and even went to the extent of being photographed with some of retrenched staff, purporting this took place at a farewell party at the bank. What hogwash!

The problem with Gono is that he is a serial liar, a cheat, the most deceitful and cruelest of men but he always wants to exude himself as a loving, caring and unblemished larger- than- life personality.

For example, the news of his much publicized fight with deputy board chairman, Kuwaza is a matter of his own trifle making. Gono and Kuwaza may have fought on matters of principle, yes, but to want to insinuate that the board has become ungovernable because of this fight is a case of Gono’s posturing at its best.

Kuwaza may have challenged Gono as unfit to govern the central bank as he has presided over the collapse of one of the country’s biggest institutions or on how he and his protégé, one Dr Munyaradzi Kereke – his so-called advisor, have filthily enriched themselves at the expense of the bank and the people of Zimbabwe. And for all people care to know, Gono does not want to be challenged by anyone because he thinks that he is not answerable to anyone except Robert Mugabe.

But Kuwaza is right; Gono should just be prosecuted for shady deals during his reign at the bank and for causing enormous human suffering to Zimbabweans, including the workers he has mercilessly and carelessly pauperized.

In one of his preposterous claims, Gono accused Kuwaza of leaking confidential board deliberations to the press. But for those in the know, Gono is the one renowned for leaking anything to press: it is the hallmark of his power trip and style of governance.

He has been the one leaking confidential board minutes and goings on at the Reserve Bank through his convoluted propaganda web involving two well known independent journalists who write for the South African Sunday Times. The journalists were always seen at the bank preceding the publication of stories on the Central Bank in the respected weekly especially those involving his boardroom squabbles with Kuwaza.

In journalism circles, Gono is well known for using the brown envelope to silence any negative sentiments about him or to promote his own vindictive ethos. In some newsrooms, journalists are known to fall over each other for the right to cover or write about Gono. And who can blame them when many of their colleagues have benefited from the largesse of this man across the public and private newspaper divide. ENDS

Justin Tamisai Makombe is a journalist working for the private sector and writes in his own capacity.