Senior officials of the ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe are reported to owe millions of dollars in loans and arrears to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe as the institution is moving to retrench thousands of staff - in many cases without severance packages.
Central bank sources said the ZANU-PF officials received loans between 2003 and 2008 that were disbursed through RBZ-controlled companies and other financial institutions.
They said such loans could be obtained only by top officials linked to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and senior central bank officials aligned with the then-ruling ZANU-PF party.
The sources said virtually all of the ZANU-PF borrowers have defaulted on such loans, which is now a sore point with the 1,500 RBZ employees expected to lose their jobs as the bank downsizes.
Civic organizations have urged the government to commission an independent audit of central bank books and loan portfolios so defaulting borrowers can be forced to repay loans.
Vice Chairman Masimba Kuchera of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development told VOA reporter Gibbs Dube that only two people have acknowledged receipt of RBZ loans.
Bulawayo-based economist Eric Bloch said it may be difficult to oblige such ZANU-PF officials to repay loans whose principal value was dramatically eroded by hyperinflation. Many such loans were issued in Zimbabwe dollars, which by early 2009 had become practically worthless.