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Gideon Gono on presidential ambitions

Ngoni Chanakira

RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono says Zimbabweans should not misconstrue his progress in cleaning up the financial services sector as gunning for the presidency in disguise.

The governor on Tuesday said his job description was simple and very similar to those of his colleagues worldwide.

“My role is to monitor the country’s monetary policy issues,” he said. “I am supposed to supervise financial institutions, money supply growth, interest rates, balance government expenditure and payments as well as try to curb devils like hyperinflation. Actually the job is very clearly defined and specific. While doing this, maybe things have overlapped.”

Sentiments have been expressed that Gono, President Mugabe’s financial confidante, was now usurping the powers of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

When he was appointed governor in December, Gono’s boss was Herbert Murerwa, once given a dressing down in public by President Mugabe who accused him of running a funeral parlour instead of a Finance ministry.

Murerwa was however early this year reshuffled and replaced by business tycoon Christopher Kuruneri in President Mugabe’s latest “Young Turk” cabinet.

Kuruneri is currently in remand prison awaiting trial for various issues including externalising foreign currency to build an eight-bathroom two-storey mansion in South Africa.

Musical chairs immediately ensued at Finance after Kuruneri’s arrest and Murerwa bounced back as Gono’s boss again.

“Maybe this (the idea about the presidency) is because I deal with everybody,” Gono said when asked about his ambitions and whether he was interested in President Mugabe’s job on Tuesday.

A high-ranking business executive asked the question.

“When I do my reports I talk to everybody – the media, lawyers, labour, women’s groups, soldiers, economists and small-scale business executives. You cannot achieve success in this kind of job if you do not consult widely. About the job at State House I’m hearing it from you.”

He said however his work rate was proving too much for some individuals, including his advisors.

“When I arrived here people thought I was crazy,” he said. “My security slept at around 2:00 am daily and came back to pick me up at home at 8:00 am and it was business as usual. I had a job to do because I had my maiden monetary policy statement to present within three weeks, which I did. The rest, as you can witness, is now up to the public to judge.”

Gono, in his monetary policy statement, told bankers that they were wayward and he would deal with them ruthlessly if they did not comply with RBZ regulations.

“Some thought I was joking,” he said. “When I told the nation that asset management firms were an accident waiting to happen they did not believe me. Thank God that accident did not happen.”

Gono said Zimbabwe’s economy needed more surgery before it could get back to normal levels.

He said what had killed the economy was indiscipline, smuggling and the parallel market caused by a serious foreign currency shortage and a skewed exchange rate. He said both government and the private sector were responsible for this.

Gono’s predecessor was Leonard Tsumba, accused of trying “bookish solutions to a crisis scenario” by Mugabe.

“We still have to deal with indiscipline which did not define any logic,” he said. “It was fashionable in Zimbabwe to increase prices at any time and there was now a bandwagon of price increasers. This had to be stopped. The country was full of middlemen with no job description.”

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate stands at more than 75%.

Gono said his consultations with all stakeholders had opened up a different world not only within the financial services sector but also in all others including churches, activist groups as well as top government brass.

“Right now the governor’s office no longer has a door and windows,” he said. “We are now working on bringing the roof down at 80 Samora Machel Avenue so that anybody and everybody can come in and give me advice.

However, I will not come to you. You must come to me to advise me what you think because there are too many Zimbabweans to go around if I decided to do a door-to-door exercise.”

Asked whether he was receiving support from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for his policies, Gono said he had agreed not to reveal information about those who were helping him in his cause. He said this could prove dangerous in the event that their “constituency” did not approve of it.

“What I can tell you is that there are some individuals who continue to blow their trumpets even when there is no audience,” Gono said.

He confirmed that if he found that individuals who influence the success of the monetary policy statement were not playing ball, he would simply run with the ball and win the game for the nation without them.

“If the politics is not good and people are complaining I will, albeit diplomatically, tell them to deal with it,” he said.

“We need to move on and this demands action. When I accepted this job I told my bosses that failure was not an option.”

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