RESERVE Bank governor Gideon Gono has appealed to Finance minister Tendai Biti, his erstwhile rival, to intervene in his blazing row with the central bank’s deputy board chairman Charles Kuwaza which has destabilised the country’s lender of last resort.The fight is threatening to suck in several other high-ranking government officials, including President Robert Mugabe.
Central bank officials were said to be thinking of even taking the matter to Mugabe if appeals to Biti cannot stop the wrangling.
The issue has assumed a serious dimension as Gono accuses Kuwaza of the grave offence of breaching the Official Secrets Act. An official found in violation of the Act can be jailed for up to 20 years.
In a letter dated August 27, titled “Serious operational differences with the deputy chairman of the RBZ board, Mr C Kuwaza”, Gono urges Biti to intervene to stop “destabilisation of the bank, witch-hunting, overbearing behaviour, denigration of the country’s leadership and leaking of official documents to the media”.
Gono says if Biti did not get involved to stop the fight, Kuwaza would continue with his “covert and overt destructive activities”.
“This letter formally seeks your intervention to reconcile our widening differences in the interest of moving the bank forward,” Gono says. “Honourable minister, your assistance in this matter will be greatly appreciated.”
Gono further states that in the intervening time he had decided to evict Kuwaza from the Reserve Bank headquarters.
“In the meantime, I have taken the position that Mr Kuwaza ceases to occupy the physical office he is using at the RBZ on the grounds of the material evidence I have in my possession of his covert and overt destructive activities,” he says.
Gono is his letter tells Biti of “serious operations difficulties” he had been encountering since Kuwaza came in as deputy board chairman.
“Kuwaza is impairing the interests of the bank and its stakeholders through direct, overt destabilisation of management’s team spirit through abrasive, abusive and unprofessional language to members of management,” Gono writes to Biti.
Gono also accuses Kuwaza of “unproductive focus on irrelevant witch-hunts, dating back to issues and areas he had differences on with previous central bank management.
“I have concrete evidence to this effect,” he says.
Gono also points the finger at Kuwaza for allegedly “discussing and disclosing sensitive bank policy issues and affairs of the state to third parties on social gatherings in contravention of the Official Secrets Act”.
Gono tells Biti that he has “tangible evidence and witnesses” to that. He said he was ready to give Biti the evidence of the alleged Official Secrets breaches. Kuwaza has been pushing for an investigation into the activities of the central bank at the height of quasi-fiscal activities and hyperinflation, a move which has triggered a fierce dogfight between him and his chairman Gono.
Official documents suggest Kuwaza has been pushing for a probe into affairs of the central bank in a bid to unearth suspected looting of the bank between 2004 and 2008 by its top officials who are well-connected to Mugabe and Zanu PF.
There have been previous efforts by ministers from the MDC-T to encourage the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to undertake a “forensic audit” of the activities of the Reserve Bank. The efforts have been resisted by Mugabe’s ministers.
Documents say Kuwaza, a former senior official in the Ministry of Finance and board member of several organisatiions, including the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, had demanded an investigation into several issues, including seignorage or printing money between 2004 and 2008. Kuwaza has written to Gono telling him that Zimbabwe should never print money again whenever possible because it caused hyperinflation. In 2008 hyperinflation in Zimbabwe scaled 500 billion percent due to printing money.
Reserve Bank officials say Kuwaza wants all quasi-fiscal activities investigated to ascertain how much money was printed and how it was used.
This is likely to be resisted vigorously from Zanu PF quarters of government as some of the money was used to fund operations of the army, police and intelligence services.
Government insisted on the printing of money for its own operations and buying of cars, houses, farm implements and equipment and all sorts of items used by the state.
Besides money printing, documents show, Kuwaza questioned a lot of issues at the central bank, including the tendering process which led to the building of the current Reserve Bank headquarters. He is said to be alleging that the process was not transparent and that he has tried to check the records to see if there was any corruption but failed to get the evidence.
It is said Kuwaza warned Gono to avoid making the Reserve Bank a “gravy train”.
Kuwaza is also said to be even querying morality of staff at the Reserve Bank which he says at one point was turned into “a red light district”.–Staff Writer