Mugabe banker's UK trip sparks protests
Gideon Gono will be holding meetings with Zimbabwean expatriates to persuade them to send money back home through channels set up by the government of President Robert Mugabe.
British shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram claimed that any money sent back could be used to help fund Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party’s campaign in upcoming elections.
He called for European Union sanctions which prevent those directly connected with the Mugabe regime from visiting Europe to be extended to cover those who support it financially.
And he said that if the EU refused to act, Britain should tighten sanctions unilaterally.
Mr Ancram told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We have always called for the sanctions to cover not just those directly involved in the regime, but also those who support the regime financially, because the regime without financial support would be very severely weakened.
“We could act unilaterally, but certainly I think the EU should further tighten its sanctions.”
Mr Ancram said that Dr Gono, who was formerly President Mugabe’s personal banker, was regarded in Zimbabwe as more powerful than the country’s Finance Minister.
He quoted an unnamed Zimbabwean economist as saying it was “outrageous that Gono is being allowed into Britain on what is essentially a fund-raising trip for the Mugabe regime”.
ZimVigil, a Zimbabwe group that has been holding weekly vigils at the Zimbabwe Embassy in London began mobilising this week, vowing to besiege the Zimbabwe House where Gono will attend a reception on Saturday.
Labour’s former minister Kate Hoey added her voice to calls for Dr Gono and other financial backers of the Mugabe regime to be added to the list of those subject to travel restrictions.
She told Today: “We have called on an all-party basis for months for the whole list to be toughened and extended.
“Of course we could do that without involving the EU. If we can’t get it through the EU, we could do it as a country ourselves.
“What we really should be doing is trying as a government to go to the United Nations and get this whole issue looked at by the UN.
The central bank announced earnings this week of Zim $520 billion (about US $100 million), mainly from remittances sent by Zimbabweans living abroad. Since the registration of 11 money transfer agencies (MTAs) five weeks ago, thousands of Zimbabweans, both locals and those in the diaspora, have flocked to convert their foreign currency.
"There is an improvement in foreign currency inflows into the country since the implementation of the new policy allowing citizens to use Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe [RBZ] accredited money transfer agencies and the adoption of currency auction floor exchange rates," the RBZ said in a statement.
The move to harness
foreign currency from Zimbabweans living overseas, dubbed "Homelink",
was a direct response from the government to undercut the parallel market
which until now had reaped the bulk of inflows.
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