The Neutering Of Tendai Biti Has Started
Harare, Zimbabwe, 19 September 2009
Just as I said.
Gideon Gono, armed with presidential approval, fired off a letter to the IMF instructing them on how to disburse the money. His so-called principal, Tendai Biti, the Zimbabwean Finance Minister, was not told of this.
When he got wind of it, he issued counter-instructions to the IMF, leaving Gono high and dry, looking about him bewildered.
Not to worry, the president steps in. Meeting Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday, he insists that the Finance Minister has exposed himself to be working against economic recovery. He has lost confidence in him because he could not countenance a Finance Minister who turned away developmental loans.
But now, the IMF has come out in support of the Finance Minister, which sort of settles the matter.
But not quite.
Since Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert "The Solution" Mugabe are barely talking to each other now, the president has simply decided to do whatever comes to his mind.
Mugabe, who I reported had given Gono widespread powers to act as a de facto ZANU PF Finance Minister in government, will now start with open warfare, designed specifically to put Tendai Biti in the same position as Morgan Tsvangirai.
Yes, right now, Tendai Biti, in terms of real power with impact, is more powerful than his Prime Minister, who now occupies an office and carries a title with trappings and absolutely nothing else.
What Biti has done with the IMF funds shows exactly how much power he now has. He has stopped Mugabe and Gono dead in their tracks. They can not get to that foreign money until he says so.
But we must also understand just why Mugabe and Gono are so desperate for this money. Gono has publicly suggested that some of it be used to pay off the money that he spirited by force out of the accounts of NGO and other foreign-currency holders.
They were compelled to keep their foreign currency at the Central Bank by Gono.
They want their money back and may go back to court to get it.
Gono wants to use part of the IMF funds to pay off these people.
Biti wants to teach him a lesson.
There are some things a Reserve Bank, or even just a an accountant, should consider sacrosant. One of these things is not to take money given to you in trust for safekeeping. That destroys the fundamental principle upon which banking is founded.
"What did you want me to do? We were broke, the country had no money and we could have faced disaster," Gono protested. I suppose even a thief could also plead hunger, ask what he was expected to do and admit freely that he beat up the old lady and stole her sandwich. It is the same thing.
What shocks most people in the banking industry is the lack of remorse or even acknowledgement that what was done was wrong. The RBZ Governor blames his ministers, whom he says gave the orders.
But he kept telling us at conference after conference that he was giving advice to the same ministers. Why did he not tell them that what they were asking of him was the same as asking a priest to kill a baby.
As regular readers will know, the Prime Minister's office confirmed to me last weekend that they were aware of the move to give Gono sweeping powers.
Their answer is to escalate matters: You sabotage us and we sabotage you.
But within Zimbabwe, Biti's already stressful job is going to get even more so. Mugabe is determined on this. He believes that tearing the MDC away from the Finances of government will defeat their agenda, and hence get them to walk out.
I wonder what sort of government this is. How on earth can they get anything done?