Gono, Kuwaza RBZ feud intensifies

TENSION between central bank governor Gideon Gono and the bank’s board vice-chairman Charles Kuwaza has reportedly shifted from the boardroom to shop-floor workers amid reports that the bank’s employees are disgruntled by the board’s delay in approving a pay rise.

Sources at the central bank said morale
reached rock bottom at the apex bank following this week’s postponement of a meeting that was scheduled to discuss salary increments for the bank’s employees.
The sources said workers expressed frustration at the workers committee feedback meeting on Monday, saying they suspect board members aligned to Kuwaza were opposing salary increments at the financially-beleaguered central bank.
The workers, who have for the past 19 months been receiving US$150 in monthly allowances, last month reportedly won Gono’s backing on a proposed minimum salary of US$1 000.
The central bank chief, according to sources, advised the committee to increase the minimum salary to US$1 000 from the US$800 that was proposed by the workers committee for the lowest paid clerical worker.
Kuwaza has in recent months clashed with Gono over the running of the bank saying the bank workers should be conservative and workers should “tighten their belts” until an investigation into the bank’s debt is undertaken.
Gono in July this year said the central bank contributed US$1,2 billion of the country’s US$6,4 billion external debt and payment arrears.
The salary negotiations are also coinciding with the bank’s plans to lay off 85% of its 2 600 staff compliment. The retrenchment of staff came after the gazetting of amendments to the Reserve Bank Act which streamlined the bank’s operations to managing monetary policy, monitoring the banking industry and to act as a lender of last resort.
At the height of hyperinflation, the bank employed scores of people who were assigned to its supra-ministerial interventions. The job cuts have, however, been delayed due to lack of funds for retrenchment packages.
Kuwaza, who also chairs the banks audit and oversight committee, is reportedly pushing for massive reforms at the bank.
Among some of the reforms being pushed by the former secretary of treasury is an audit into the bank’s involvement in quasi-fiscal activities and how the now worthless Zimbabwe dollars were printed during Gono’s seven-year tenure.
“Workers this week expressed disgruntlement at the works council when they walked out of Monday’s feedback meeting without closing with a prayer as per tradition,” the source said.
“They felt that the sharp differences between the governor and the vice chairman of the board are delaying negotiations for salary increment. The disgruntlement intensified when the board said it would meet the workers committee on October 26, six days after pay day. This was widely seen as a delaying tactic.”
However papers in possession of the Zimbabwe Independent show that Reserve Bank workers committee chairman Wilton Mugabe in recent written correspondence to the bank’s employees said salary negotiations had begun “in earnest” at the works council and the deliberations were “in progress”.
“On behalf of the rest of staff and my own behalf, I would like to thank the Bank and the governor in particular for availing second term fees for staff’s children,” Mugabe wrote.
Despite efforts by the bank to pay school fees for employees’ dependents, it is understood that failure to assist workers who are currently studying has also stirred resentment.
When reached for comment, Kuwaza referred questions to the bank’s spokesperson.
Kuwaza said: “I do not know about that. Anyway why don’t you talk to the bank’s spokesperson. I don’t talk to the press and I’m not the bank’s spokesperson. I don’t operate that way.”
Questions sent to bank spokesperson Kumbirai Nhongo on Wednesday were not replied to at the time of going to press.
Meanwhile, Gono in August asked Finance minister Tendai Biti to intervene in the growing feud with Kuwaza.

 

Bernard Mpofu

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