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Gideon Gono: Zimbabwe’s ex-central bank governor tells all

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Gideon Gono: Zimbabwe’s ex-central bank governor tells all

Dr Gideon Gono, who retired in December 2013, after a 10-year tenure as governor of the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, was at the forefront of the country’s fight to survive crippling economic sanctions. How Zimbabwe survived the sanctions is the story told here in graphic detail, and exclusively to our editor, Baffour Ankomah, by the man who was at the eye of the storm. This is Dr Gono’s first interview since his retirement as he has adamantly refused to speak to the media.

NA: You were in office for 10 years as governor of Zimbabwe’s central bank. Did you enjoy your time as governor and how would you like to be remembered in respect of that time?

GG: When the story of Zimbabwe’s survival between 2000 and 2008 is finally told, and told accurately, not by people who want to claim public credit for Zanu-PF’s 2013 electoral victory as if they are, or they were the only factor in that victory, the ending will probably read something like: “When it was easier to give up than continue; when some people who today bask in the glory of the country’s survival were throwing stones at it; when the country faced its greatest danger and economic onslaught post the liberation struggle; and when dark nights seemed to last forever with no dawn appearing in sight; when spring, summer and autumn seemed to have permanently disappeared from Zimbabwe’s seasonal calendars leaving unending the chills of winter for its people, he was there. 

“He was there to defend the country, to stand by its people, by its economy and stood by all its legislature, executive and judiciary. He stood by its industry, its miners, farmers, security, defence and law enforcement machinery, and sustained them all in defence of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He was bashed left, right and centre but he and his team, under the wise leadership and guidance of President Robert Mugabe, remained standing, until a political solution was found which later brought in five years of sustained economic stability and growth.” 

No other African country has been visited by such sanctions

That is how, in its sober moments, I think Zimbabwe itself sees my tour of duty over the last 10 years. I am sure that even my worst enemies will agree that Zimbabwe could have by now been turned into an Afghanistan or Somalia, with refugees all over and millions having died in what might have been the worst “human, not monetary inflation” in terms of the number of deaths that had ever been recorded in a post independent African country, if we had not done what we did. Some would be criticising me from their graves – that is, if the dead people were in a position to tell their tales!

Now, did I enjoy it? Of course there was no choice but to execute my duties with an outward passion that depicted equanimity and to suppress the internal misery, anger and hurt.

NA: You must have had high and low moments during your tenure, let’s begin with you telling us some of the low points?

GG: Well, I believe that the essence of leadership is to avoid sinking when the tide is low or being swept off your course when the tide is high. In both cases, the courage to remain in the water, the creativity to navigate out of the high or low tides, and conviction and common sense are what the ship’s captain requires. 

President Mugabe has all these qualities and some of us who worked closely with him literally every day, during all the economic challenges of my governorship, were cushioned from the worst effects of that traumatic period by his sheer wisdom and dexterity in motivating troops under attack.

There were, however, some incidents that the president could not do anything about so I got really affected. One such was when my three children, Passion, Pride, and Praise were chased out of Australian universities as sacrificial lambs to feed the ego of the MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who was on a visit to that country. In order to appease him, the Australians took revenge on innocent children whose parents were being accused of standing in the way of Tsvangirai’s failed regime change agenda.

My three children were at various universities in Australia and they were deported together with five other students belonging to Justice

Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramai, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, Commissioner General of Police Augustine Chihuri, and Legislator David Chapfika.

It was a very sad moment for us to go and receive these innocent children from the airport. Up to today, we and the children reflect upon that dreadful act, considering that it is a long-held tradition in any conflict situation that women and children should not be deliberately targeted.
An eight-day visit by Tsvangirai led to eight children’s academic lives being sacrificed. Thankfully, President Mugabe asked me to try to financially assist the children to find alternative universities, and today, the kids have found their feet again. But minus any apology from my home-boy, Tsvangirai, whose village ironically now falls under my political leadership as the Buhera Senator-designate, in Manicaland Province.

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Written by Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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