Biti Gains Control of Treasury

FINANCE minister Tendai Biti has won his battle with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono for control of Treasury.

Sources close to the developments told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Gono is now keen on improving relations with Biti, who now has the backing of cabinet.

The same sources however said Biti and Gono are now engaged in private talks to improve their working relationship.

The sources said Gono and Biti held a meeting on Monday in bid to thaw relations between them after serious recent run-ins.

This week’s meeting was a follow-up to yet another one held last week which sources said necessitated the ongoing talks.

Sources said Gono apologised to Biti for washing their dirty linen in public after Gono’s letter to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai complaining about Biti’s “harassment”.

In the letter, Gono alleged Biti had injured his reputation and caused family anguish by calling him an al qaeda terrorist and accusing him of destroying the economy through quasi-fiscal activities. Gono denies ruining the economy, saying he saved it from collapse.

Gono also claimed Biti harboured a personal vendetta against him for investigating possible foreign currency externalisation at Biti’s law firm.

But Honey& Blackenberg, the law firm at the centre of the row, denies any wrongdoing.

Gono claimed the law firm had been involved in fraudulent foreign currency deals.

Biti succeeded in cabinet recently to get support to institute reforms at the central bank.

However, he failed to get cabinet’s nod to remove Gono as chairman of the RBZ board after Zanu PF ministers argued there was no precedence for his proposal.

Biti had proposed that the RBZ board be reconstituted by independent directors and called for the appointment of a non-executive chairperson.

In a bid to settle his dispute with Biti, Gono is said to have also met senior MDC officials.
Sources say the MDC is prepared to sacrifice Gono to get the donor support the country needs to lift the economy from the doldrums.

The MDC is said to have agreed in caucus meetings recently that it would implement a three-pronged strategy to remove Gono from office. This involves using the Global Political Agreement (GPA), parliament and diplomatic and donor pressure.

Zanu PF on the other hand has counter measures to ensure Gono remains in office.

A Zanu PF source said the party is prepared to stall talks over outstanding GPA issues in a bid to buy time for Gono and mobilise support for him in public.

President Robert Mugabe, army chiefs and war veterans recently pledged to back Gono. The MDC has appealed to Sadc over the Gono issue, but Mugabe is using his regional contacts to block the issue.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai this week said it was important to resolve the Gono dispute, saying that it was not a personal but a reform issue.

“It is a very important issue, that is why it is a deadlocked issue,”Tsvangirai said.

“The credibility of the Reserve Bank –– not the merits of  the individual –– is very important.”

BY CHRIS MURONZI