By Itai Mushekwe
The sword of Damocles is all but hovering above the head, of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono, following disclosures this week by insiders at the bank that the central banker has been fired from the Joint Operations Command (JOC).
Nehanda Radio has been told of how “panic stricken” Gono has become following the decision to “drop him”, from JOC, a shadowy military command structure bringing together the bosses of the country’s police, army, central intelligence and prisons service.
JOC is widely believed to be the hidden power behind government, as it allegedly runs its own parallel administration structures rendering the Government of National Unity (GNU) a talk-symposium critics maintain.
“Expulsion from JOC can only mean, the beginning of the end for Gono,” a senior RBZ employee said.
“During his tenure at the bank, Gono has never bared his soul on the goings-on in government, but he recently shocked the board with revelations that police protection had been withdrawn from his residence.
“Clearly his personal security is at risk, and he has been giving colleagues the impression that anything can happen to him. I believe he is also tired of this job, and wants out.”
Gono who was appointed central bank chief, in November 2003 by President Robert Mugabe, whom he doubles up for as personal banker and finance adviser, according to army sources seems to have fallen out with Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander, Constantine Chiwenga and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) commissioner general, Augustine Chihuri over Mugabe’s succession politics and Zanu PF’s indigenisation manifesto, which he is said to be vehemently opposed to.
Chiwenga and Chihuri belong to an invisible military faction, which is working round the clock to have a direct hand in determining Mugabe’s replacement, raising fears of a military picked candidate being installed in power as early as 2014, high level government officials warn.
Nehanda Radio has been told of how indigenisation minister, Saviour Kasukuwere has succeeded in making a case against Gono with Mugabe, accusing his opposition to the nationalisation of the economy, as being indirectly opposed to Zanu PF and it’s key campaign manifesto, calling upon for a 51 percent equity ownership across all economic sectors by locals.
“Chiwenga and Chihuri appear not to trust Gono anymore, although they have been close allies for some years now,” army informants said.
“They have removed him from JOC, because his political rhetoric sounds suspicious, with some accusing him of bidding for a soft landing should Tsvangirai’s MDC win the presidential elections.
“However the biggest blow to Gono, is that military intelligence has also implicated him to having close relations with Washington and the American government at large therefore making him a closet ‘traitor’.”
Gono has been spoiled by WikiLeaks disclosures in one of its many cables, where he revealed information on Mugabe’s health in 2008, to American diplomat James McGee during a private meeting, alleging that Mugabe has prostate cancer and that doctors fear he will not last for more than five years.
The RBZ boss, could have also unwittingly insinuated his perceived links to the US, when during the launch of his first book: Zimbabwe’s Casino Economy: Extra-ordinary Measures for Extra-ordinary Challenges, he revealed to guests in Harare that the World Bank (WB) had approached him with a senior vice president job offer.
“Just as I was being dragged to the UN Security Council to be put on the sanctions list, I was offered a job by the World Bank as senior vice president with the full blessings of none other than George Bush himself,” Gono said during the time at the Rainbow Towers hotel.
Nehanda Radio understands it’s likely (not yet verified) that either Kasukuwere or controversial mines minister, Obert Mpofu will replace Gono in JOC.
The banker whose tenure at the glass and mortar tower along Samora Machel Avenue, comes to an end in just five months’ time, after being reappointed by Mugabe in November 2008 for five years has hinted on going into full time chicken farming.
“I have been doing chickens for the past 40 years,” Gono told a local daily last month. “I started in February 1973, by 2020 I must be the first chicken billionaire in Africa.”
Security around Gono, has been the talk of town in recent months following grapevine talk of an assassination attempt of his life, after a reported fallout with intelligence service bosses and Zanu PF heavyweights.
Online media was awash with reports that the central bank head had fled to Egypt to escape assassination, following a tip off from an operative who knew about the alleged contract killing.
Mugabe is said to have come to the rescue, and telephoned Gono to come back home. Gono denies that he skipped the country for Egyptian sanctuary, maintaining he was in Cairo attending a business meeting organised by the African Export Import Bank.
“It is so unfortunate that they (security services chiefs) have used him like a condom,” another RBZ staffer said.
“Gono made them super rich. He gave them cheap loans in foreign currency at rock-bottom interest rate charges, for their farms and businesses. Some of them didn’t even bother to repay those credit facilities and that is why the reserve bank is in trouble. All of a sudden the discovery of diamonds, has now meant that their former ATM (Gono) is now useless. Politics is a dirty game.”
Gono was not answering his mobile phone, when we sought an official comment from him, while officials at Defence House insisted that we fax them our questions in relations to JOC’s ousting of the banker.