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Eric Bloch Column

Gono’s US ban a non-event

by Eric Bloch

ONCE again there has been an international media frenzy centred upon an event related to Zimbabwe. Numerous p

ress, television and radio reporters discovered that the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Gideon Gono, and his wife, had been placed on the targeted sanctions list of the USA. (Although the media claims this to be a new development, Gono is reported as saying that he has been on that list for almost two years, in which event the only possible new occurrence may be the addition of his wife to the list).

However, irrespective of when Gono was placed upon that list, the media is widely alleging that the consequence of his being a recipient of US sanctions will mark further economic decline.

On the one hand, that allegation can be regarded as a compliment to Gono, for it implies that Zimbabwean economic well-being is significantly dependant upon him (which it very probably is!). On the other hand, the allegation is demonstrative of a near total lack of awareness of realities.   The foundation of the media’s belief that the inclusion of Gono on the sanctions’ list will have major, adverse economic repercussions is founded upon the fact that anyone on that list is barred from entry into the US and, therefore, Gono will no longer have access to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to the World Bank, both of which Bretton Woods institutions have their headquarters situated at Washington DC in the US.

However, even if Gono is now the recipient of the US sanctions, precluding his travel to the US and subjecting any US-based assets as he may have (if any, which is unlikely) to embargo, he will in no manner be hindered from interacting with the IMF and the World Bank. Not only do those bodies send regular delegations to Zimbabwe to review the economic environment and its fiscal, monetary and other policies, and in order to engage in dialogue with RBZ and with the ministries of Finance and Economic Development but, in addition, any travel ban upon Gono cannot be applied in respect of any attendance by him at general meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.

In the same manner as it was agreed by the US that any members of the United Nations would be entitled to head of state representation at any meetings of that body, the same principle applies in respect of attendances at any meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions. It was a precondition of the location of the headquarters of the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank in USA that that country would not prevent any member country of any of those bodies from attending their meetings. Thus, even if Gono is barred from entry into the US for holiday or other purposes, he remains able to enter the country when the purpose of entry is to attend upon the IMF and/or the World Bank.

Notwithstanding, any reasons that may be advanced for Gono to have been placed the US targeted sanctions list, it is exceptionally difficult to justify that action. The contention of the US (as also that of the European Union) is that sanctions are targeted against those in Zimbabwe who prevent genuine democracy prevailing in Zimbabwe, who rule the country without regard for the rule of law, and with little or no regard for the fundamental principles of human rights. Both the US and the EU have been emphatic that they have not imposed economic sanctions, and that the intent of their sanctions is not to destroy the Zimbabwean economy, and thereby to intensify the immense hardships that oppress the majority of Zimbabweans.  They state that the objective of their targetted sanctions is to motivate those subject to the sanctions to reform, to re-establish democracy, justice and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe.

If that is so, then it is incomprehensible that Gono has been targeted. Admittedly, he is understood to be a member of the ruling party, Zanu PF, but not all of the party’s membership espouses practising only lip service to democracy, law and order, and moral humanitarian principles.   The fact that many of the party’s hierarchy can be justly accused of that lip-service does not mean that those led by them do likewise. That is why heretofore the targeted sanctions have almost entirely applied to the presidium, ministers and deputy ministers, members of the politburo, and certain of the central committee, some permanent secretaries, and families of the listed persons.

However, not only has Gideon Gono’s endeavours been very strongly directed towards restoring the Zimbabwean economy, but they have often been in disregard for the known stance of his political masters. He has had the courage of his convictions to speak out against any government policies. Thus, for example, in his third quarter of 2005 Monetary Policy Review Statement, delivered October 20, he unflinchingly confronted government declaring “abhorrence against the current land invasions”.  He continued that “anyone invading farms……….. is not working for the interests of the country; is a criminal and ought to be locked away”.

He also called for “a climate that has and upholds investment protection laws and agreements”, emphasising the need by saying that “we yet again make a passionate call to government to have a rethink on the policy stance on Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs).”

Gono was similarly outspoken on other issues relating to government, such as the almost unlimited profligacy that has characterised the fiscus for many years.   He said that it is “imperative that government, across all line Ministries, exercises restraint on current and future expenditure programmes”, and declared, “No room will be accommodated for unbudgeted outlays”. Gono has also been willing to disregard the President’s renowned opposition to currency devaluation. President Robert Mugabe is on record as having informed Parliament that “the advocates of devaluation are saboteurs and enemies of the State”, but that has not deterred the RBZ governor from initiating substantial currency devaluations ever since he took office, even though the extent thereof has not been sufficient in the perspective of most within the private sector.

On various occasions this column has contended that the US and EU targeted sanctions were not directed against the economy, but were politically driven,  and that government recurrently attributed Zimbabwe’s economic downturn to those sanctions, falsely alleging that the motivation for the sanctions was to destroy the economy.

Until Gono was added to the targeted sanctions list that contention of this column was wholly correct, and government’s stance was merely in order to divert attention from the fact that it was government’s actions that were actually the cause of the disastrous state of the economy. But now, with the inclusion of Gono and his wife on the list, either the US is now extending to economic sanctions (albeit that the ban upon Gono will not, in fact, negatively impact upon the economy), or the USA has been misinformed as to that which Gono seeks to achieve, being economic recovery, with a focus of minimising the hardships confronted by the Zimbabwean masses. In the alternative, if Gono has actually only now been placed upon the list, as is suggested by the international media, one must ponder whether doing so is not but a petulant reaction to the disgusting and unfounded attacks by government  upon US Ambassador Christopher Dell.

Whichsoever of these reasons account for the inclusion of Gono in the targeted sanctions of the US, that inclusion will have no substantive economic repercussions. The RBZ has, through its governor’s statement and actions, made it clear that it intends that Zimbabwe continue to honour its international obligations with the IMF, the World Bank and other institutions, and to interact constructively with them on an ongoing basis. Therefore, the speculation of the international media, that the listing of Gono augers further economic ills for Zimbabwe, is baseless.

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