From tea boy to national purse
Gideon Gono, the chief executive officer of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ), looks set to become the governor of the central Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) shortly. But not that long ago he was making tea for the staff.
GONO will take over from Leonard Tsumba, whose term of office expires at the end of November after serving a maximum 10 years allowed by the constitution.
Senior banking industry officials said yesterday that Gono, a former tea boy who made history by leaping from obscurity to the top-most rungs of the financial sector, had recently been seen touring the central bank’s Harare headquarters. He had held informal meetings with senior management there, apparently to familiarise himself with the operations of the country’s central bank.
Other industry officials said he had also been examining the RBZ’s leadership structure.
But Gono, whose CBZ now trades as the Jewel Bank, yesterday professed ignorance of his imminent appointment.
"That is news to me," the 41-year-old banker told the Financial Gazette. "I am not aware of that appointment at all."
Gono is on contract with the CBZ, a commercial bank in which the government holds some shareholding. Banking officials said his strategically important position at the CBZ would make it easier for President Robert Mugabe to appoint him to the RBZ.
Government goes for Tsumba
In recent months, incumbent RBZ boss Tsumba has been under fire from the government, including Mugabe himself, for backing former finance minister Simba Makoni’s plans to refloat the overvalued Zimbabwe dollar.
Mugabe and some of his ministers contend that a devaluation of the local currency will lift rampant inflation, measured at annualised record high of 139. 9% last month, and fuel popular anger against the government.
Gono began his meteoric rise in the banking sector in 1987 when he was named chief accountant of the state-run Zimbabwe Development Bank.
He later moved to the CBZ in 1995 as managing director and chief executive officer.
He currently chairs the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s board of governors and was once the head of the University of Zimbabwe’s governing council.
He has played a leading role in negotiating secretive deals to supply fuel to Zimbabwe since 1999, when the country began to experience biting fuel shortages caused by a foreign currency crisis, itself a result of tumbling exports and a cut-off of international balance of payments aid.
Gono’s imminent appointment at the central bank comes at a time when Zimbabwe’s economy is in its fourth consecutive year of recession and a deepening crisis, marked by shortages of most essential goods, which is blamed on the government’s misrule.
As RBZ chief, he would be expected to complement the government’s fiscal regime with the necessary monetary policies, a task previous central bank governors have said is a hard call because of the bank’s lack of independence from the government.
Under Africa’s economic revival plan known as NEPAD, largely championed by South African President Thabo Mbeki, all African central banks must shed state control in order to assert their role of reining in spending by central governments.
envisages budget deficits of African states to average 3% of gross domestic
product annually so as to free more financial resources to the productive
private sector, seen as the locomotive of Africa’s envisaged economic
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