WASHINGTON DC —
The former governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono, is supposed to be resting at his home after serving 10 mandatory years at the central bank.
Indications are that millions of Zimbabweans are still spooked by his monetary policies that are believed to have devastated the country’s economy, once considered Africa’s bread basket.
Zimbabweans endured serious challenges between 2000 and 2009 as the nation recorded historic hyperinflationary figures of up to 230 million percent, an almost unprecedented figure in the modern world of economics.
Critics say Gono, who is also President Robert Mugabe’s personal finance advisor, leaves a battered legacy as the country is still failing to recover from his quasi-fiscal activities.
There is no doubt that Gono had a profound impact on Zimbabwe’s economy and politics as he introduced some quasi-fiscal activities like the provision of agricultural inputs to new farmers who grabbed white commercial farms in the year 2000.
Some Zimbabweans say he will be remembered for the collapse of the local currency, empty shops, the infamous bearers’ cheques and parallel foreign currency market.
But for Gono, who was once the chief executive of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, he accomplished his mission as he crafted monetary policies that were favoured by President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.
The majority of Zanu-PF supporters, like Morris Ngwenya, who is also a political analyst, believe that Gono performed as per the ruling party’s economic agenda.
“I appreciate what Gono did. He worked during very difficult times when sanctions were being piled on Zimbabwe. He managed to help Zimbabwe to survive under difficult conditions,” he says.
Ngwenya says President Mugabe always appoints people of Gono’s caliber.
“If you check Gono’s background, you will note that he turned around the fortunes of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe and therefore I expect the president to appoint another professional to this important position,” he says.
But independent political commentator, Bekezela Maduma based in the Matabeleland South provincial capital, Gwanda, says Gono destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy.
“Gono was part of Zimbabwe’s economic problems. I therefore do not foresee any changes in the near future. It’s the system that matters and not the person in this case,” says Maduma.
His views are echoed by Harare-based independent economist John Robertson, who argues that a new governor is expected to pursue a populist Zanu-PF agenda. He says President Mugabe is expected to appoint a politically correct governor.
“In all cases we are looking at someone who has to be obedient and you have to be obedient to the president. That is what Gono was. He got instructions from the president and he was very obedient when he got instructions from the president and he followed them to the letter.
“And I think that his successor will also be an obedient person who will wait for instructions from the president and carry out all the instructions. This is exactly what we have in this country not only at the central bank.”
Robertson says Zimbabwe needs millions of dollars in foreign direct investment to revamp its failing economy, adding that a new governor will fail to transform the economy without any fresh capital injection to resuscitate various sectors including agriculture.
“The new governor won’t change anything without any money to work with. What is needed is huge amounts of assistance and I think the country has been remanded again and again that we do not qualify for the assistance because of the way we behave and because we do not qualify, we won’t get it.”
Masimba Kuchera, an economic commentator and director of the Center for Disability and Development, agrees noting that the central bank will engage in its core business if it gets some cash injection from the international community.
“I think it must be made clear that it was not Gono’s fault that the RBZ was not the lender of last resort. They did not have liquidity. All this must come from government,” he says.
The RBZ owes non-governmental organizations and private companies millions of dollars it seized at the height of the country’s economic problems. The government is attempting to assume these debts in order to relieve pressure from the central bank that is being monitored by the International Monetary Fund through a Staff Monitored Programme.
Zimbabwe owes the IMF, World Bank and other international finance institutions more than $10 billion.