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


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

NA: Turning to the economy, what was the greatest challenge that precipitated the decline in the country’s fortunes for almost a decade?

GG: Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions! The country’s liberation struggle was centred on the land and it became inevitable that in order to fulfil the aspirations of the people, land redistribution, which was part of President Mugabe’s government agenda from 1980, had to be tackled head on. You know well that land is an emotive issue the world over.

To put the land question into perspective, one needs to go back to President Mugabe’s historic speech on the eve of our independence: “There are people without land who need land, people without jobs who need jobs, children without schools who need schools, and patients without hospitals who need them. We are also fully aware of the need for increased wages in all sectors of employment. My government will certainly do its best to meet the existing needs in these areas.”

We never wanted any Zimbabwean to suffer

Twenty years on, there was no land redistribution to the landless majority, so the masses took the matter into their own hands and demanded that the president fulfil one of his inauguration promises. The government had no option but to embark on a Fast Track Land Redistribution Programme and this was the whole genesis of the illegal Western sanctions that were imposed on the country from 2000 onwards.

The economic measures and tactics employed were brutal, vicious and dirty, all aimed at bringing the Zimbabwean economy to its knees and causing “regime change”. Uninformed people will talk about economic mismanagement, human rights abuse, absence of the rule of law, and all other forms of nice-sounding descriptions as the causes of our economic problems, but the real reason was the illegal sanctions that were imposed on our small country. They led us to behave and react the way we did, as we tried to survive the unprecedented onslaught against our country. 

No other country in Africa has ever been visited by such sanctions and pressure from all corners of the West, and survived a change of government or regrettable re-enslavement and re-colonialisation of its people other than Zimbabwe.

NA: President Mugabe has become the only African leader – both traditional and political – in pre- and post-colonial African history who is still standing after being assailed by the combined might of the nations of European stock. How do we account for this?

GG: Well, as I said, no other African country in the history of economics has actually withstood the kind of pressures that we went through. We are yet to document how we did it, but let me say to you that we surprised many people and the credit must go to President Mugabe. He directed all our actions and operations, so credit for the survival of the country and Zanu-PF as a party goes to him, not me.

NA: Zimbabwe’s inflation rate rose astronomically. Couldn’t you have controlled it to a more reasonable level?

GG: We could have kept inflation below double digits if this was an option but it wasn’t. As a central bank, we could have pushed a hard-nosed tight monetary policy and not printed any money. We would have had low inflation if we had decided not to try to assist industry and get involved in other quasi-fiscal operations. By being blind to the realities of our situation, and pursuing conventional in-box economics, we could have kept our inflation to even single digits but at what cost? This is the issue! At the cost of very high inflation in terms of dead bodies!

There would have been lots of dead bodies lying in our streets, of children, the elderly, the vulnerable, and the sick, piling up in the hospitals and streets on a daily basis. Our only option was to go for a lesser evil, and we chose monetary inflation in place of dead bodies. It was a deliberate choice!

Dead men have no tales to tell, and that was our philosophy. With the wolves at the door, we had to use each and every tool at our disposal to defend the family rather than let the enemy have their way.
During that period, we experienced floods and droughts that destroyed our crops, and if we had not done what we did through the central bank, and through the interventions that were directed by none other than President Mugabe, people would have died of hunger or from the lack of medicines.


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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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