Mugabe's banker beats sanctions with UK trip
Members of Gono's advance travelling party refused to confirm or deny that Gono had arrived in the UK, but New Zimbabwe.com confirmed this with witnesses who saw the Reserve Bank governor.
"I saw him....I am 120 percent certain it was him," said one witness.
Gono is eager to avoid protesters planning to disrupt his meetings. Private invitations are being issued. As news filtered through about his arrival, a scramble of journalists began a man-hunt to land an interview with the man tasked with rescuing Zimbabwe's faltering economy.
New Zimbabwe.com has not obtained Gono's itinerary but opposition groups have sprung into action, with one of Gono's scheduled visits to a church in Vauxhaull being scrapped after the MP for the area Kate Hoey protested.
It is understood that Gono will address a group of Zimbabweans in Birmingham on Thursday to encourage them to send money home to their families through government channels, according to Zimbabweans invited to the meeting.
He plans other meetings in Luton, London and Glasgow.
EU sanctions prevent President Robert Mugabe and 98 named officials travelling to or holding financial assets in any EU country, but Mr Gono is not among those barred.
An advance party on Gono's UK tour met with protests at the Zimbabwe Embassy in London last Saturday. Protesters accused them of fundraising on behalf of President Mugabe ahead of the March parliamentary elections next year.
Since taking over the reserve bank in January he has introduced several schemes that credited with slowing down the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy.
But he is not free of scandal. The South African Sunday Times claimed that he had carried out hundreds of illegal currency deals, including several which had paid for lavish shopping sprees by Mrs Grace Mugabe.
He admitted that before going to the reserve bank he had acted as Mr Mugabe's personal banker.
In Britain he will try to persuade the estimated 400,000 Zimbabweans to send money home through official channels rather than the private channels they prefer because the official exchange rate has been unrealistically low.
Mr Gono has introduced a system which offers a competitive exchange rate. If he succeeds in tapping into the remittances it will bring a hefty amount of urgently needed foreign currency to the state reserves. He has already urged Zimbabweans in the US to do the same, in a speech in Dallas.
Lady Amos, leader of the House of Lords, said recently that Mr Gono was free to travel to Britain because he was not regarded as a key member of Mr Mugabe's government.
"As I understand it, the governor of the reserve bank is not on the exclusion list because he is not playing a leading role in the Zanu-PF politburo or in the government," she told the House of Lords on May 25.
Analysts in Zimbabwe said that Lady Amos was mistaken in suggesting that Mr Gono was not a key policy maker for the regime.
"Gideon Gono is the most significant maker of financial policies in Zimbabwe today," said a Harare economist who would not be named.
"His decisions have become more influential than the minister of finance.
"It is outrageous that Gono is being allowed into Britain on what is essentially a fund-raising trip for the Mugabe regime. We thought that was what the EU sanctions were supposed to prevent."
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said it was dismayed by the visit.
"These are the same Zimbabweans who have been disenfranchised by the Mugabe government, which has prevented them from voting.
"We fear the
government will use the funds gathered through this campaign to fund
Zanu-PF's election campaign in March next year."
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