RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono is in Washington for meetings with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank officials to prevent Harare’s expulsion from the Bretto
n Woods institutions.
Official sources said Gono left for the US capital on Tuesday for critical meetings on Zimbabwe’s arrears which will determine whether or not this country can remain an IMF member.
An IMF external relations department officer confirmed yesterday that Gono was in Washington and had met deputy managing director Takatoshi Kato on Wednesday. He was due to continue with meetings yesterday and today.
While his hurried visit to the US may succeed in retaining links to the IMF, observers say no money is likely to be forthcoming for balance-of-payments support.
There has been confusion about Gono’s movements as his officials laid down a smokescreen. Some reports this week claim he was headed for the United Kingdom to join the RBZ’s Homelink money transfer roadshow which started in the US two weeks ago. Others said he was in South Africa for meetings with that country’s monetary authorities.
One official said he had travelled to Kampala for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa summit.
Staff in Gono’s office and RBZ public relations personnel added to the confusion by claiming they were not aware of his whereabouts.
The Homelink crew, led by tourism executive Herbert Nkala, has been struggling to convince Zimbabweans abroad to send their money home through official channels to alleviate a biting foreign currency crunch.
While some people in the diaspora gave the team a receptive hearing, others greeted it with angry protests, accusing it of trying to raise funds to prop up President Robert Mugabe’s regime. A scheduled meeting with congregants at a London church on Sunday has been cancelled after opposition to it mounted, reports say.
There have also been protests outside Zimbabwe House.
While Gono had been reported as due to attend some of the British roadshow meetings in cities such as Leeds and Birmingham, official sources said he would be in Washington for anything up to two weeks.
The IMF’s executive board will closely examine the progress made on policies and payments when it considers the Article IV consultation report and the issue of Zimbabwe’s overdue payments early next month.
An IMF delegation was in Zimbabwe between March 17-31 for its annual Article IV consultation. It produced a report, which stated “Zimbabwe’s economy has experienced a sharp deterioration in the last five years, while real GDP has declined by about 30%, and is still contracting”.
The sources said one of Gono’s three deputies, Charity Dhliwayo, who deals with bank licensing, supervision and surveillance, exchange control and anti-money laundering, was in South Africa for talks with monetary authorities there.
Former Finance ministry permanent secretary Nick Ncube, one of the deputies responsible for national development and economic research, is acting governor.
Gono’s mission is largely to prevent the country’s expulsion from the IMF which gave Zimbabwe a chance to put its house in order last December after the new governor came in.
The RBZ chief will try to restore suspended balance-of-payments support. At the end of February Zimbabwe owed the IMF Special Drawing Rights US$290 million.
The country, currently reeling from a deep economic and foreign currency crisis, has committed itself to make US$1,5 million quarterly payments to the IMF.
Zimbabwe was last December spared dismissal after the appointment of Gono to spearhead economic recovery. But the country’s voting rights were suspended due to non-payment of loans.
Gono’s is virtually a “mission impossible” in the US because of Zimbabwe’s poor international image. Apart from the negative report by the IMF team that recently visited Harare, Zimbabwe was last week rated as one of the worst investment destinations in Africa by the World Economic Forum. An IMF report on sub-Saharan Africa says Zimbabwe’s economy was destroyed by “mismanagement and poor governance”.
Government this week announced the nationalisation of all farmland, a move bound to make Gono’s mission doubly difficult.