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Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF and MDC Clash Over Central Bank Reform Legislation

Lawmakers of the Tsvangirai MDC formation have responded by threatening to scrap an indemnification clause shielding RBZ Governor Gideon Gono and senior central bank officers from prosecution for actions taken in good faith

Senators of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party have proposed 11 amendments to pending legislation to reform the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, drawing fire from the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which introduced the bill.

Lawmakers of the Tsvangirai MDC formation have responded by threatening to scrap an immunity clause intended to shield incumbent RBZ Governor Gideon Gono and senior central bank staff from the legal consequences of various actions they took on behalf of the former Mugabe government.

Gono has acknowledged diverting monies of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2008 to fund government activities, and accounts of many non-governmental organizations similarly tapped without permission.

The indemnification clause drafted by ZANU-PF House legislators before the bill's passage in the lower chamber, gave partial immunity to Gono and other RBZ employees “for anything done in good faith and without negligence."

Senator Obert Gutu, chief whip of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, said the new amendments introduced by Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, chief whip for ZANU-PF in the upper chamber, have thrown the bill into disarray.

Gutu said the amendments proposed by ZANU-PF were aimed at restricting Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s role in overseeing the central bank and to ensure the retention of three deputy governors at the central bank. The legislation as drafted would have left just one deputy governor in place.

Gutu said that if the amendments were approved by the ZANU-PF-dominated Senate, “the proposals will completely neutralize the main thrust of the bill to an extent that it will become a useless piece of paper which does not address the main concerns" of Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

The Tsvangirai MDC has long demanded that RBZ Governor Gono be replaced but President Mugabe, who reappointed him in late 2008 without consulting his future partners in the unity government, has adamantly refused.

Gutu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that the proposals amendments have angered both formations of the MDC, charging that the demonstrate bad faith on the part of ZANU-PF with respect to central bank reform.

Monica Mutsvangwa, wife of Chris Mutsvangwa, a member of the ZANU-PF information committee who was named this week to the new Zimbabwe Media Commission, declined to comment on the proposed amendments.

She holds the Senate seat for Chimanimani, Manicaland province.