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Gideon Gono “… in sheep’s clothing” : The Role of the RBZ Governor in Murambatsvina

No other party in Zimbabwe's history surely ever had the sheer audacity that ZANU PF displays in, on the one hand, carrying out the most dastardly acts, and on the other, dressing up those acts to look respectable. Time and again they claim the most noble motives to justify the most ignoble deeds. So in the year 2000, when the party's popularity was plunging and in order to divert attention from the chronic failures in governance that were then showing up in significant social and economic problems, they undertook a programme of violent and unlawful farm invasions. They called it the Third Chimurenga and used their state-controlled propaganda machine to portray the exercise as correcting long-standing grievances arising from historic inequalities in land holding. A mask of respectability to conceal an unpalatable truth.

So too in the last few weeks we have seen ZANU PF launch a massive blitzkrieg against urban dwellers whom they have conspicuously failed to persuade to vote for the party in the last three major elections. This is nothing other than political retribution, with no doubt a sub-plot of depopulating urban areas and forcing people back to their "rural homes" where ZANU PF thinks it can the more easily manipulate and control them. In other words social engineering by means of forced migration, and carried out with the kind of ruthless efficiency for which Hendrik Verwoerd and the founding fathers of South Africa's Apartheid were once noted. Still the spectacle of thousands of street vendors being brutally ejected from their homes and workplaces and hundreds of thousands of families rendered homeless and destitute, was never going to be a pretty sight, so ZANU PF did two things to minimize the public relations damage. First they reduced media coverage as far as possible, and second they did their best to portray the exercise as a necessary "clean-up", anti-crime operation. It was therefore given the code-name "Operation Murambatsvina" ("Operation Drive out Trash) - though this only begs the question, what in Mugabe's and ZANU PF's view is "the trash"? A working definition for them seems to be anyone foolish enough to resist ZANU PF tyranny.

One ZANU PF chef who has not been linked too closely with the "clean up" operation is the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono. For this gentleman is more image conscious than most in the party. He would like Zimbabweans, and the world, to think of him as a man with, as the Bible puts it "clean hands and a pure heart". Indeed Gono has gone to some pains to portray himself as very religious. He never speaks of his mission to save the economy (and Zimbabwe?) without a touch of evangelical zeal, and his speeches are littered with the most pious-sounding quotations from the Scriptures. To cite his recent Monetary Policy Framework as just one example, the writer noted no fewer than five Biblical allusions at one glance - including references to Sodom and Gomorrah and the unfortunate Lot's wife (who was turned into a pillar of salt), a rather free rendering of Jesus' experience in the Garden of Gethsemane where (according to the learned Dr Gono) God said "My Son, take it like a man …" (!) and a quotation which we have not been able to trace yet (but are sure we will be able to find eventually) to the effect that "God will help those who stand up to help themselves". Obviously Gono has a superior version of the Bible to any the writer has - perhaps "The Expanded Bible" - but the point is the man obviously takes the Christian faith with some seriousness. He ends his presentation "In the Lord's hands, I commit this Monetary Policy Framework for our economic turnaround." In a country noted for its religious observance, Gideon Gono comes across as a true believer. And such an image is certainly a political asset in Zimbabwe, as he well knows.

It is when one studies the text of Gono's recent speeches more closely that an interesting link emerges with Operation Murambatsvina. His "Post Election and Drought Mitigation Policy Framework" was delivered on May 19 and published in full in a special report carried by the state (ZANU PF) media the following day - in other words just a few days ahead of the commencement of the savage reprisals against the informal sector and poor urban classes, of which those outside the inner sanctum of ZANU PF policy-makers were then blissfully unaware. Here are a few excerpts from his speech (the italics are ours):

1.13 "Yesterday it was the financial sector in the forefront of illegalities. Today it is individuals ……….. who are in the forefront of parallel market dealings and other economic crimes."

1.14 "Today, it is the parastatals, it is the local authorities …. among others where the rot needs thorough cleansing along the same lines that we did with the financial sector. Let there be no outcry when the long arm of the law extends itself to these sectors, as indeed we believe, it will soon do."

31.1 "With the Parliamentary Elections now over, the marked peace and tranquillity prevailing in the economy forms a solid launch-pad to deepen our turnaround thrust."

The conclusion is inescapable - when formulating his Policy Framework speech the Governor of the Reserve Bank was fully appraised of the social and economic tsunami that ZANU PF was just about to unleash on the nation. Not only so, but he clearly approved the basic tenets of the policy, witness his remark: "the rot needs thorough cleansing". He knew that the blitzkrieg would cause massive upheaval and expected a strong voice of protest to be raised against it: "Let there be no outcry when the long arm of the law (sic!) extends itself to these sectors." He was also aware of the timing "…as indeed we believe it will soon do", which was no doubt deliberate; based on the ZANU PF's reading of the post-election climate "… the marked peace and tranquillity prevailing in the economy forms a solid launch-pad to deepen our turnaround thrust".

At the very least then Gideon Gono knew and thoroughly approved the massive assault on the civil liberties of the informal sector and the urban poor which was about be launched on the unsuspecting Zimbabwean public. Indeed, in terms of political philosophy and economic policy, Murambatsvina so closely fits the successive stages of the so-called anti-corruption drive of which Gono was the author that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that this too was his brain-child - perhaps the capstone of his intended reforms. So much for his professed strong Christian convictions - and the pious clichés that he trots out regularly to spruce up his personal image (as indeed do a number of other ZANU PF heavyweights who are equally guilty of the most heinous crimes against humanity). Evidently he, and they, are unaware of another strain of the Scriptures which pronounces the most severe judgment on those who oppress the poor, along the following lines:

"Woe to those who make unjust laws, and those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless …" (Isaiah 10/1-2)

And while we are quoting the Scriptures another passage comes to mind as particularly apt:

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Isaiah 5/20)

A salutary warning surely for the ZANU PF spin-doctors, of whom Gideon Gono must be reckoned one of the foremost.

But the purpose of this article is not simply to expose Gideon Gono's appalling hypocrisy. It is to call into question the motives of all those who accommodate themselves so easily to his hypocrisy, and indeed assist him in the task of selling the most odious policies of a fascist state as nothing more than economic good sense. And here we have in mind the likes of Eric Bloch who sits on the Reserve Bank Advisory Board, and regularly sings the praises of Governor Gono. Eric Bloch well knows two things - first, that this ZANU PF administration is perpetrating unspeakable evils on the poorest and most vulnerable section of the population, and second, that his presence on the Advisory Board and his readiness to be an apologist for Gono's (and ZANU PF's) policies, tends to add some measure of respectability to the same.

We find this behaviour rather strange, particularly given Eric Bloch's own background, coming as he does from a religious minority (the Jews) who have suffered the most appalling persecution under fascist leaders like Adolf Hitler. Indeed we understand that Bloch's own parents were survivors of the Holocaust. Perhaps then he should refresh his memory on some of the atrocities committed by that other fascist dictator. As has been noted by many with an historical sense, the parallels between the Nazi dictator and our own are striking. In the context of Murambatsvina perhaps the closest historical parallel was Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass" (November 9, 1938) when Hitler's Storm Troopers went on a wild orgy of violence against Jewish persons and property, while the police were ordered not to interfere. The toll of that night's violence included 91 Jews killed, hundreds seriously injured and thousands more humiliated and terrorized. It is recorded that about 7,500 Jewish businesses were gutted while scores of synagogues were destroyed.

Let the Eric Blochs of this world know that they will be judged - indeed their fellow Zimbabweans already judge them most harshly - for their complicity in the ZANU PF persecution of the nation's poorest and most vulnerable. The same can surely be said of any who join, or remain on, the Gono gravy train. The fact is that we have long since passed the point at which giving moral, financial or any other kind of support or encouragement to this murderous regime must be considered a betrayal of the basic tenets of justice and mercy of the great Judaeo-Christian tradition.

And a final verse of Scripture for our Bible-bashing Governor of the Reserve Bank and those who do his bidding:

"(Jesus said) Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them" (Matthew 7/15-16)