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Zimbabwe Central Bank Chief Criticized For Alleged Expensive Taste In Cars

Miffed at newspaper reports that he is driving a US$365,000 Mercedes Benz acquired with public funds, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono moved Tuesday to put his side of the story before the public with ads in three Harare newspapers.

The RBZ board has threatened to sue the Standard and The Zimbabwean, a United Kingdom-based weekly distributed in Zimbabwe which also ran the story.

Gono was taking exception with reports in the independent Standard paper saying his bank acquired a US$365,000 Mercedes Benz V-12 car for his use.

The advertisements ran in the Herald, Chronicle and Daily Mirror papers, all state-run or pro-government, saying the story was “entirely false.” Reserve Bank sources said that ads, published in English, Shona and Ndebele, cost Z$34 million to publish.

Central bank sources said Gono is not ruling out a political motive behind the report: he has felt mounting pressure from ruling party critics who say his policies have failed the country. The ZANU-PF economic affairs committee has urged Harare to set up a currency management panel to loosen Gono's control over foreign exchange.

Gono stated in the ads that his bank has not misused hard currency reserves.

The RBZ board of directors issued a statement saying it purchased a Mercedes Benz for Gono in 2005 for US$138,000, and said Gono had been using two other Mercedes which he brought with him from Jewel Bank when he took his central bank post.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze, director of the Labour and Economic Development Institute, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe it was irrelevant whether Gono’s car cost US$365,000 dollars or US$138,000, as both amounts are more than Zimbabwe can afford in its current dire economic straits.

University of Zimbabwe law lecturer and National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said Gono is abusing his office in threatening the press.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...