HomeOpinionDisappointed by Biti's selective use of truth

Disappointed by Biti’s selective use of truth

Denford Magora

I FIND I can not let Tendai Biti’s article (“More self-congratulatory lies”, Zimbabwe Independent, January 28), stand.

e=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The MDC secretary for economics lays into the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Gideon Gono, accusing him of unbridled personal ambition and lying. And, as we have now come to expect from the MDC, the criticisms are neither substantiated by fact nor backed with alternative policies to the ones that Biti is tearing apart.

To start with, let us look at the growth forecasts that Biti says are “fanciful”. I am truly sick of the MDC embracing statistics when it suits them and rejecting them when the truth appears inconvenient to the MDC agenda.

Let me remind Biti that last year the IMF forecast a GDP growth rate of 5% for Zimbabwe. This is even more optimistic than the 3% forecast by Gono.

Yet, Zimbabwe did not hear Biti accusing the IMF of being a “functional acolyte” of the Zanu PF regime. The IMF did not base its forecasts on the assumption that the MDC will assume power in 2005. In fact, they made their forecasts on the assumption that it will be business as usual in the Zanu PF sense in Zimbabwe.

More alarmingly, Biti promotes a barefaced lie by stating that when Gono took office, inflation was under 100% and Gono took it to 900% with his policies.

How can a man who aspires to be a minister of finance in this country be so out of touch with reality? Does he think we are stupid? Does he think we all recently emigrated to Zimbabwe from some other land this year?

In December 2003, inflation was NOT under 100%. If Biti thinks it was, then he was leading a more comfortable life than the struggling MDC supporters he wants to hoodwink.

The fact of the matter was that when Gono took over at the RBZ, inflation was already approaching the 100% mark and the MDC was hoping and praying for a complete meltdown. The fact that Gono rescued the situation is actually cause for concern within the ranks of the MDC if this half-baked article by Biti is anything to go by.

Biti and his friends in the executive of the MDC wanted to ride into power on the back of a completely destroyed economy, that can be the only explanation for the vitriol that he pours on Gono. Biti and the MDC argue that, but rescuing the situation, Gono is propping up President Mugabe.

He may be, but the more important result of Gono’s passion is that he rescued the situation for many ordinary Zimbabweans. Reality confirms this: commercial banks are actually reducing their interest rates from a peak of around 900% when Gono took over, to under 150% today. This is still unacceptably high, but it is an improvement on the situation. The man in the street knows this and will not be hoodwinked by Biti and his lies.

Then Biti jumps to the defence of the banks that had developed a culture of impunity before Gono cracked the whip. Although I agree that the way Gono dealt with the banking crisis was neither transparent nor confidence-inspiring, it did achieve results.

When he came onto the scene, there were banks I know personally that had a portfolio of close to 300 low-density houses in Harare alone. I had witnessed a bank executive use depositors’ funds to pay $900 million for a house whose asking price was $450 million. To a large extent, this behaviour fuelled inflation. Gono, upon taking office declared inflation Enemy Number One. If he was serious at all about reducing inflation, he had to tackle the banks which were driving prices up everywhere as part of their speculative activities.

Gono did not precipitate the banking crisis as Biti states in his article. He simply exposed it for all to see unless Biti is saying he was more comfortable with the old regime where taxpayers’ money was lent to these banks on a daily basis with no questions asked.

The banking crisis was a result of irresponsible banks finding that their speculative activities had run their coffers dry. They then approached the RBZ for liquidity support and Gono, very sensibly, put the proviso that no one should access public money unless they could demonstrate that they were conducting business in the interests of the nation and to the benefit of all its citizens.

If the banks that collapsed did not agree, they could simply have opted out of liquidity support. Gono did not cause the liquidity crisis within our banks. That’s fact. But Biti thinks Zimbabweans are stupid.

On parastatals, I agree whole-heartedly with Biti. But I am afraid the tone of the rest of his article makes one think that his very sensible comments on parastatals are more of a case of Biti shooting wildly and hitting something by pure chance rather than a case of deductive reasoning and passion for excellence in our public enterprises.

The same applies to Biti’s comments on the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Banking Group (ZABG). Unless forced, no one is ever going to willingly walk into a ZABG branch to open an account. People have suffered for close to a year with their monies locked up, only to be forced to become shareholders without even being consulted and the strength of public animosity against the ZABG has been grossly underestimated by Gono and his people. It is an exercise in futility that should just be left to die a quiet death. But, all these valid points have been discredited by Biti’s selective use of the truth in his attempt to hoodwink Zimbabweans.

I repeat that I am extremely disappointed by this piece of fiction from someone who hopes to become a minister of state, controlling the fate of the economy. If he has problems with facts and the truth now, what will happen when he gets into power?

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