Biti Must Come Clean on Gono

*Biti-Gono case has divided MDC-T more than party leader Tsvangirai’s alleged misdemeanors

NOW DAILY EDITORIAL

Anywhere else in the world, a former finance minister who offers to get into any sort of business relationship with a former central bank governor would be viewed with extreme suspicion and even be found guilty of serious conflict of interest.

In a democracy with guaranteed free expression, good laws and honest officials, such an act would have resulted in legal censure for both the former minister of finance and MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti and former Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono. The logic is simple. As former head of the treasury, Biti may be required to give evidence against Gono, or explain his own role about the huge sums of money that are said to have gone missing from the RBZ under his watch. Even if Biti himself is not summoned to testify, officials who were working under him may have to give evidence. Can the public trust Biti not to influence witnesses and to do an honest job of that if he is also worried about the fees that he is still to be paid by Gono, the man he once called a saboteur?

Playing the devil’s advocate may be a lucrative career move. However, for a senior politician who will at some point require votes from victims of Gono’s mismanagement, for himself and for others in his party, this is not only disastrous but selfish.

Damaging Act

Politically, this is the most damaging act by an MDC leader since the party lost the seriously flawed elections of July 31, 2013. All attempts to smear Morgan Tsvangirai by regurgitating long-forgotten errors of judgment, which he has openly admitted and apologized for, and alleged marital problems, pale into insignificance when compared to this latest outrage by the MDC secretary-general.

For the record, Gono is the reason why Zimbabwe does not have its own currency today. He totally failed to manage our currency, which should be the number one priority of any central bank governor anywhere. He dappled in politics and sponsored Mugabe’s hit squads. Even before joining the RBZ, Gono abused the National Fuel Procurement Committee, where he was chair, resulting in severe fuel shortages.

Soon after joining the central bank in 2003, Gono helped Mugabe to launch a campaign against fellow bankers, and experts say Zimbabwe’s banking sector has never recovered from that episode. He dished out government money like confetti to Zanu PF thugs and common thieves who only needed to wear a party T-shirt to draw millions under dubious schemes like the widely abused farm input scheme, Baccossi, Homelink and others. In 2008, after Mugabe’s electoral sloss, Gono provided funds, armed and equipped the murderous gangs which terrorized Zimbabweans and ensured Mugabe retained power. We can never forget the chilling presence of  Rhino Cam vehicles, supplied directly from the Reserve Bank, which transported Mugabe’s death squads around the country, resulting in the death of up to 2 500 perceived Mugabe opponents in the post March 29, 2008 period.

Worthless Bearer Cheques

Gono did a lot more, printing worthless bearer cheques as a way of extracting the foreign currency that Zimbabweans were receiving mostly from relatives abroad. During that process, Gono himself became super-rich, buying businesses for a song in an economy that he had helped Mugabe to wreck.

Then he wiped out NGO accounts to fund Mugabe’s campaigns, resulting in the death of an unknown number of people who were suddenly denied humanitarian support.

We know Biti’s record as a lawyer and we know he will always argue his way out and justify this politically fatal move. But it is not enough to be correct in your own eyes. For a politician and a business person, it is crucial to be trusted by others.

The MDC secretary-general may snigger at this, but justice has a way of eventually getting even to those who are briefly shielded by Mugabe’s autocratic powers. Unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, this sharpshooting lawyer has already lost his case.

We have no doubt that the 2013 election was rigged by Mugabe. But with this sort of strange behavior from the MDC’s top leadership, how can we be sure they were not paid off at the appropriate time, to let the rigging happen, or to do nothing about it afterwards? As they say, in politics, leaders have to be like Caesar’s wife – be above reproach.

The present case calls for a revamp of our laws to ensure that finance ministers and central bank governors never get to share the proceeds of the crimes they commit while in power. Such a permanent, parallel relationship ensures that the Constitutional powers of both parties are protected and preserved for long-term benefits.

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