By Phillip Pasirayi
IT was not surprising to hear that Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono might have entered the murky political waters of Zanu PF and is eyeing the most coveted post — the country’s presidency.
While this might have
come as a surprise to many unsuspecting Zimbabweans and members of the ruling party, for those of us who have been following closely the politics of succession within the rank and file of Zanu PF, it was self-evident that the governor was increasingly getting more fascinated with politics rather than economics.
Since his appointment as RBZ governor in December 2003, Gono has strayed from his role as chief executive officer of the central bank to dabble in politics. The governor is too ambitious and sees his mission as to serve the Zanu PF presidium in the name of the suffering people of Zimbabwe.
Gono is obviously biting more than he is able to chew and only time will tell.
Addressing business executives in Gweru recently, Gono was quoted as saying: “We will not let the presidium and the long-suffering majority of workers, the rural folk, urbanites, pensioners, students and civil servants down.
“The turnaround of the economy should not be based on the politics of patronage, fear or favour. Everyone must participate and benefit or burn depending on individual actions.”
We wonder which students Gono was referring to when thousands of them cannot afford the recently hiked fees.
We also wonder which workers and civil servants the governor was referring to as the majority of them live below the poverty datum line and their paltry incomes have been seriously eroded by inflation.
Since his assumption of office at the RBZ, Gono has always used words ostensibly meant to placate the suffering masses, whereas he should be condemned for allegedly recommending some of the most heinous crimes such as Operation Murambatsvina that left thousands homeless, jobless and much poorer than they were before.
It was upon Gono’s complaints that the informal sector and shantytowns like Matapi in Mbare and other high-density areas where the poor live were havens of criminal activities such as money laundering, black market foreign currency dealings that the government implemented Operation Murambatsvina.
The same military tactics reminiscent of the way Operation Murambatsvina was implemented have been evident since Gono’s presentation of the mid-year monetary policy review statement when hordes of youth militia and state security agents manned roadblocks and subjected Zimbabweans to all forms of torture under the guise of searching for bearer cheques.
Mutumwa Mawere argues it is “through a combination of patronage and intimidation (that) Gono is now a feared man in Zimbabwe. He is effectively the CEO of Zimbabwe Inc and has effective control of the state machinery and anyone who dares challenge him risks a lot.”
President Robert Mugabe’s endorsement of Gono and the RBZ is more telling in Zanu PF politics of succession if analysed through the same lens that Joice Mujuru became vice-president.
Gono’s fascination with politics came about as a result of his increased interaction with Mugabe. Gono was always part of “a strong-powered delegation” accompanying the president on the many foreign trips to either look for fuel, food, investment opportunities or new friends for the Zanu PF government in the wake of its increased isolation by the international community.
The duties of the governor of the central bank are spelled out in Section 6 of the RBZ Act which only empowers Gono as the incumbent “to look into monetary policy which addresses interest rates, money supply and exchange rate”.
Since his appointment, Gono has dabbled in sectors that have nothing to do with monetary policy, money supply or exchange rate and has usurped the powers of Agriculture, Finance and Home Affairs ministers, to mention but a few.
In other words, Gono is now a de-facto prime minister whose role is to liaise with President Mugabe and implement policies that even some cabinet ministers and the two vice-presidents, Mujuru and Joseph Msika, may not be aware of. Such is the extent of the rot in the government of Mugabe.
The fact that Gono could now be gunning for the presidency must be looked at within the context of the Mujuru camp having fallen out of favour with Mugabe.
At 82, Mugabe does not know whom to trust and the Mujuru camp could be one of those groups. But again Gono has always been Mugabe’s right-hand man or the most trusted “induna” who has been consistent and unwavering in supporting the status quo.
To Mugabe, Gono is an honest, hardworking and loyal cadre who has bailed out the ruling party each time it faces financial problems since his time at the helm of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe.
In some circles, both within and without Zanu PF, Gono is viewed as an untainted and less controversial political figure compared to Mujuru, Emmerson Mnangagwa or Simba Makoni because he has kept his “distance” from the factional fighting that has characterised Zanu PF’s politics of succession in the past few years. As such, some see Gono as the natural successor of the ageing and tired Mugabe.
The reason Gono’s political project to become the country’s next No 1 after Mugabe is doomed has everything to do with his lack of political legitimacy, his lack of popularity, and the intensity of Zanu PF factionalism which will leave the party in a much weaker position as the 2008 presidential poll approaches.
Gono is a beneficiary of the patronage politics he blames today for causing the country’s economic woes. His meteoric rise is one that can be attributed to patronage politics. Gono derives his political legitimacy from Mugabe, not Zanu PF or the people of Zimbabwe in whose language he wants to speak each time he appears in public.
Gono’s ambitions to be the next president of Zimbabwe are doomed because of his lack of a solid ground in party politics. Although he has overzealously defended the policies of Zanu PF, he is not known in either cell or branch of the party. His rivals — Mnangagwa, Mujuru and Makoni — have leverage over him because they are heavily involved with Zanu PF and have a defined constituency.
Even a fragmented Movement for Democratic Change can easily win a presidential election against Gono, whose political career to date is easily recognisable in appointed posts rather than ones in which he contested and was elected.
Gono comes from a banking background where principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and good professional and ethical conduct are given prime consideration. These notions are inimical to the culture of violence, the politics of fear, corruption and patrimonialism that define the way of doing politics in Zanu PF.
Before his appointment as governor, Gono played a mysterious role in government that saw him visiting other countries to negotiate and enter into business deals on behalf of government even though he was neither a known minister nor a permanent secretary.
He has in the past headed some of the most influential boards such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings and the University of Zimbabwe’s governing council.
But perhaps Zanu PF could be using Gono in the same manner they did with Jonathan Moyo whom they later dumped, disowned and ridiculed even after he had worked so tirelessly and intelligently to prop up the party’s waning support.
* Phillip Pasirayi is a Zimbabwean political activist.