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Gono heads for SA

Dumisani Muleya

RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono, widely seen as the nation’s economic saviour, takes his begging bowl on a roadshow to South Africa this weekend.

Gono is expected to address a meeting of Zimbabwean exiles at Gallagher Estate in Midrand between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

South Africa is said to host the largest number of the estimated 3,4 million Zimbabweans living abroad, mostly due to the prevailing economic crisis.

Gono is due to fly into Johannesburg from Britain where he has spent a week selling the RBZ’s Homelink scheme to sceptical Zimbabweans.

Before that he had spent four days in Washington where he held talks with senior International Monetary Fund officials.

Gono was tasked by President Robert Mugabe in December to spearhead economic recovery and his delegation has been struggling to convince Zimbabweans to send their money home through official instead of informal channels.

Zimbabwe’s foreign currency situation remains critical largely due to poor export performance and lack of international balance-of-payments support.

The Homelink campaign started in Atlanta in the United States at the end of last month without Gono. The advance party, headed by tourism executive Herbert Nkala, made upbeat claims about the economy in a bid to extract foreign currency from US-based Zimbabweans.

Gono’s speech, delivered on his behalf by Nkala in Atlanta, claimed “the future of the Zimbabwean economy looks bright”. It said “the recovery efforts are already showing remarkable benefits in turning around the fortunes of the country”.

There have been varied claims by RBZ about the foreign currency amounts being received from abroad. In London officials said between US$50 million and US$60 million was being received a month, while back home US$750 000 a day (US$22,5 million a month) was said to be flowing in.

Gono, who refused to answer questions about democracy and human rights during his trip, left Harare on Tuesday last week for Washington for meetings with IMF officials. His meetings were aimed at keeping Zimbabwe, under threat of expulsion, in the IMF and restoring balance-of-payments support suspended five years ago. Gono met IMF deputy MD Takatoshi Kato on Wednesday last week.

From Washington, Gono flew to London to join his team which has been experiencing a rough ride. He was greeted by angry crowds in several British cities.

Reports say Gono had a baptism of fire at his first stop at Zimbabwe House in London last Saturday. He was confronted by protestors who accused him of trying to raise money to prop up Mugabe’s “collapsing regime”. His team’s publicity officer, Supa Mandiwanzira, had his camera seized by protestors. It was only recovered with the help of police.

In Luton, about 60km north of London, scores of protestors disrupted a meeting last Friday prior to Gono’s arrival.

In Birmingham, the UK’s third largest city, Gono and his team appeared at the Crowne Plaza Hotel last Sunday. They were greeted by at least 300 Zimbabweans jeering and holding placards.

In response to queries on human rights abuses and repression in Zimbabwe, Gono said he could only act as a messenger and take the concerns back to Mugabe.

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