By Bornwell Chakaodza
“FIX it or go” (Zimbabwe Independent, Editor’s memo, October 7). “Stop the destruction, Gono must go”, said Tendai Biti, MDC’s secretary for economic affairs; and “Gono’s trillions no p
anacea to Zim woes,” wrote Shakeman Mugari.
These are some of the headlines in last week’s issue of the Independent by which the paper made conclusions on Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s record over the past two years.
Let me remove the danger of misrepresentation by pointing out from the outset that although you certainly goofed by over-estimating the governor’s transformative power on the Zimbabwean crisis, the Gono conundrum excites extremes of opposing views.
Like no other governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe since Independence, Gono is a subject of intense interest and controversy, and not just among financial or economic experts but in the entire Zimbabwean society.
Therefore, many of the things (not all) contained in the three articles already referred to deserve attention as an antidote both to the excessive and sometimes embarrassing hero-worship that has attended the governor in the government gazettes – the Herald, the Sunday Mail and ZBC; and to the mindless and ill-founded political slanging to which he has sometimes been subjected from some of the more un-neighbourly of his colleagues and fellow Zimbabweans.
Democracy is all about deep debate and it is important that differences of opinion continue to exist side-by-side peacefully.
Having made these preliminary points, let me state my position. It is based
four-square on the premise that “though knowing we won’t succeed, we try anyway”. We have to. Someone has to.
Gono has been thrust into a situation not of his own making but that of the endlessly bungling and arrogant Zanu PF. This is a Zanu PF-induced crisis. It was not Gono’s decision to pay more than $36 billion gratuities to former political prisoners, ex-detainees and restrictees – a figure which will further paralyse the Zimbabwean economy.
The Reserve Bank governor is not the cause of our predicament. It is the ruling party, and by their docility and inaction, all Zimbabweans must take full responsibility for this crisis.
What Gono is trying to do is to manage the crisis and de-accelerate the decline of the economy. The trying will of course be an empty experience without his colleagues to assist him to make things happen. It is truly a communal effort!
Against all odds, against all adversity, the governor and his team are trying, and trying and trying. And let us give them credit for that. Far from improving anything, perhaps the governor’s “heroism” lies in his ability to hope, to believe and to act, even in the face of justifiable despair. It could be that Gono cannot control trying!
Yes, things have got much worse in whatever direction you care to look. Inflation is continuing to make a determined assault on an economy which is already in the intensive care unit. All one has to do is to take a look at the statistics of sadness that stand before us day-in and day-out.
The $9,6 million September monthly basket of basic commodities for an urban family of six that the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe came up with is to me not a true reflection of how prices have skyrocketed in recent weeks. All Zimbabweans buy from the same supermarkets whether poverty-stricken or otherwise, and considering the way prices are going up on an hourly basis, I shudder to think how the vast majority of Zimbabweans are surviving.
My questions, not to Gono, but to President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF: How much practice will it take to plan a human sacrifice of your own people?
What would it take to say: “We have done our bit, let us go for the sake of all Zimbabweans?”
The level of destitution in this country has to be seen to be believed. My questions are directed to the Zanu PF political establishment because it holds the key to the turnaround of the fortunes of this country – not Gono and his colleagues at the central bank.
Gono cannot and will not fix the problem. There are decided limits to what he can do with the best will in the world. With these kleptomaniacs in government, what amount of power and influence can Gono wield over them?
Zanu PF must admit openly that we have become a failed state. And it is Zanu PF which has to fix the problem. It is a very difficult situation for any governor of the Reserve Bank whoever it could have been.
We cannot expect Gono to remain asbestos in a melting pot. The real epidemic is the ruling Zanu PF. This is the contextual framework which was lacking particularly in your Editor’s memo and the article by Biti.
Yes, by dishing out trillions to corrupt and unaccountable parastatals, local authorities and other organisations, the Reserve Bank is merely offering bandages and patches to a worn-out tube.
It can never be a cure for an economy that is terminally ill. And I think there is a very simple point that the Reserve Bank management has to grasp: Without Zanu PF willing and able to fix the politics of this country, no amount of fresh blood you continue to pump into an anorexic Zimbabwean economy will revive it. Any business the world over needs political stability, security as well as the environment in which it can grow and thrive. That kind of environment does not exist in Zimbabwe.
But that does not mean Gono and his team do nothing until the environment becomes propitious. Far from it. Giving up now can never be an option, to quote Gono’s favourite expression.
As a central bank you have a huge task on your hands but do not give up. I think this is the bottom line. The answer obviously lies in political hands but continue to persevere. I want to challenge all Zimbabweans to say that if any one of us was in Gono’s shoes in the current political climate, would we fare any better? A big no is my answer.
Things could be much worse without Gono. Ours is an abnormal environment. I want to repeat what I said earlier on: Though knowing we won’t succeed, we try anyway. In Gono and his colleagues, we must pay some homage to the power of the human spirit and to their extraordinary efforts against crushing oppression.
This is the context which was conspicuous by its absence when the editor said about Gono: “Fix it or go”. If hypothetically Gono were to go tomorrow, will things begin to improve in our troubled country? Will they improve under the present political environment? I think it is important to keep things in perspective.
Although his heart is in the right place or near enough, Gono has obviously made mistakes, as every active and creative man does.
I am sure the governor will be the first person not to claim infallibility like the Pope. Foremost are the governor’s false predictions on the fuel, forex and inflation fronts. The truth is that the Reserve Bank governor has made public promises before he has come to appreciate the complexities surrounding these issues, especially in this ever-changing troubled environment of ours.
In fairness to Gono, promises are hard to keep in a fast-changing and unplannable environment. The fact of the matter is that no chief executive officer of an organisation, especially in today’s Zimbabwe, can say that he is immune from contradictions between promise and reality. This is another level to which Zanu PF has sunk Zimbabwe. Most of those who critically support Gono are well aware of this aspect of his record and it inspires in them a definite caution and reserve.
The key point that I want to leave with your readers is: It is one thing to fix a problem and another to try, particularly when it is not of your own making. And I do respect and admire Gono and his team for trying.
To tell the youthful Gono to go is to completely miss the point. You very well know which ageing leader should go! And that is where the opposition MDC, civil society, the business community, the churches and ordinary Zimbabweans have to raise their voices continually rather than remain silent and submissive.
Criticising Gono yes, but to tell him to go is to present an illusion, to take us to the land of fantasy and fiction.
* Bornwell Chakaodza is former editor of the Standard and the Herald newspapers.