By A Correspondent- Former reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono says there is no need to deny that the country is in a crisis as the problems were self-evident.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF have on several occasions taken offence with people that say there is a crisis in the country that requires outside intervention.
Gono (GG), who retired in 2013, told Alpha media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the online talk show In Conversation with Trevor, that leading political parties needed each other to stabilise the country.
Below are excerpts from the second part of the interview.
TN: Gideon, you have written this book and you are writing two more; this covers the first five years of your term of office. You have called it Zimbabwe’s Casino Economy, Extraordinary Measures For Extraordinary Challenges. Describe to me what are the core attributes of the casino economy.
GG: The casino economy was informed by my experiences of a number of factors that make the life of a governor very difficult. Issues to do with discipline. Discipline is key in any financial institution, the key to any monetary system.
We had indiscipline of the order that has never been experienced anywhere in the world.
It was compounded by the political involvement that showed its face there.
You tried to bring an institution to order, the next thing you get a call from a minister, you get threats from a faceless character which you knew very well has got some powers to harm you.
You had corruption taking different forms and manner going unpunished, you had a situation where outside forces were also conspiring against the bank, in other words, the sanctions, against any order that you could bring.
It was a casino economy predominantly driven by politics as opposed to economics.
TN: Are we ever going to get out of this casino economy?
GG: We can if we cure the elephant in the room in the form of legislative instruments.
One of the effects of a plethora of those is, and we need to cure them.
The day you are going to create a nation run on statutory instruments, know that there is something very wrong.
I was faced with a situation where if I had done nothing about it, I would have had zero inflation but the result of that would have been, today people die in Muzarabani or Buhera, tomorrow 20, next day 30. What sort of inflation in terms of dead bodies is that? I had to do whatever I could to save lives.
TN: During your tenure, a number of black banks went under.
Did you not overreact to this financial indiscipline within the financial sector? Could things be done differently to stop the indiscipline and preserve the black banks that had emerged, what’s your response to that?
GG: We never looked at the actions we took in terms of the colour of the owner of the institutions – the background of individuals never came in. The role of the Reserve Bank was not to be a crèche to baby-sit and nurture people. They were dealing with depositors’ funds. There were nine processes one had to take before closing a bank, but many overlooked that.
I wouldn’t say we over reacted because the one thing that has happened is, there has been a onesided accusation and today, if I’m to tell you the extent of indiscipline that some of the guys going around and making those accusations exhibited, people would lynch them.
People must go to jail for abusing depositors’ funds.
I did the right thing. In fact, if you were to get a governor who would have been more compassionate than me, I would give you the world.
TN: You actually brokered a deal between the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, The Elders and (late) president Robert Mugabe, briefly what were the highlights of that deal?
GG: When in November 2007 The Elders wanted Zimbabwe to go under an investigation, they were blocked. No one in their right senses can deny a secretary-general [an ear].
As governor, I knew the negative impact of that kind of a political decision. I had to get in touch with Kofi Annan.
I persuaded him, asking for conditions for us to meet so that he wouldn’t go to the Security Council. He said he was going to smuggle me out of Zimbabwe to Geneva. I negotiated with Kofi Annan, under the guise of some foundation, we had really messed up. One of the conditions I took there was that they were never going to criticise RG (Mugabe). That was why you never heard him criticising him.
TN: You intervened for peace between the former first lady and President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa, am I right, at the funeral?
GG: The history of nations and development and progress is premeditated within historical events. The unfortunate death of RG presented this nation with a tremendous opportunity to unite. I was one of the closest sahwiras of RG and I was given a role to contact the former first lady to bring RG back home. [In] my interactions with the former first lady there was that agreement that we should not antagonise or hold anybody to ransom over his death.
RG was a unifier, he forgave people, we needed to bury the weaknesses of RG, the bad things he actually did or is accused to have done, to say to the world, to say to nations, political parties that if at all we need to blame anybody, here is an opportunity, let’s blame it on RG. Many people have sought to look at the negative or bad side of RG.
I said let’s satisfy ourselves, let’s pick the biblical stone, let us all blame it on him and then say to the nation, having done that, we open a new chapter. A lot of emotions took over, but one thing that I know which is a fact is that, I was taken out of the role and later on, unfairly accused of working with ED (Mnangagwa) [and],working against the wishes of RG.
TN: You have suggested that let’s approach (Rwandan) President Paul Kagame to be the honest peace broker. Talk to me about what made you make that suggestion, have you had any response from anybody?
GG: We are a nation in crisis, let’s not deny that. I am an economist, I have read many books on turnaround [strategies], and I know exactly the signals and signs of nations in a crisis. I have seen the need for us to get help. I have also reconciled with myself why it should be an outsider because prophets have no honour in their backyard.
I have also recognised the potential compromises that could be perceived or happen with anyone in Sadc coming to help us. We are insignificant in the scheme of things when it comes to reality. I also looked at the nature of the challenges that we are facing.
We need our economy to turn around, we need international goodwill. What is it that is common between us and Rwanda? Rwanda’s journey to where it is now is painful.
None of us has gone through that, who is better to understand the pain than a country that has gone through that?
There are also other things that bind us; it is an example of an economy that is ticking.
Paul Kagame comes from a military background- that speaks about the discipline in him.
We have Zanu-PF, their ideology is founded from the big tent, no wonder we are copying them on other issues.
He (Kagame) comes across as a very sincere person, with principles, grounded on peace, reconciliation and nation-building. It is in the context of that, that one was looking at him for that.
TN: Have you had any encouraging responses to that?
GG: It is tricky to say that. If you are going to heal each other you need to accept you have wronged each other, [but] at this stage, we are in denial. In what capacity will I go and talk to them? I don’t want to go to Chikurubi [Maximum Security Prison].On elections, one of the realities we must accept as a nation is that the political parties need each other to run the country. We need each other for a while, while we cool down.
“In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com