THE war of attrition between Finance minister Tendai Biti and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono intensified this week, raising fears it could disrupt the smooth operation of monetary and fiscal policies unless quickly resolved.
Biti this week took the fight deep into Gono’s territory after he told cabinet that the central bank boss ran a parallel government structure at the height of his power which gobbled 45% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Sources said Biti told cabinet on Tuesday that Gono had been running a “parallel government” using state resources secured via printing of money. He said this took 45% of GDP, leaving government in a state of paralysis.
Biti seems to be on a warpath against Gono. Government insiders fear an ugly row which could disrupt the transitional government.
Biti, who has compared Gono to an Al-qaeda terrorist who deserves to be put before a firing squad, last week stoked fires when he accused his rival for the first time in public of engaging in “illegal and excessive quasi-fiscal activities that have been done outside the provision of the Constitution of Zimbabwe”.
This signalled that Biti wanted to squeeze Gono on the legal front, observers noted, possibly using sections of the state apparatus to support his move.
However, Gono has repeatedly said he engaged in quasi-fiscal activities in a bid to deal with “extraordinary circumstances” which demanded “extraordinary interventions”.
Previously, he even published a list of ministerial directives to show he was acting under orders from above.
Efforts to get comment from Gono were unsuccessful Thursday.
Sources said President Robert Mugabe, who chaired cabinet on Tuesday, shook his head in an ambiguous manner without necessarily showing whether he agreed or disagreed with Biti.
The sources said Mugabe later left the cabinet chair to Vice-President Joseph Msika as he went to another meeting.
“Biti is determined to continue pushing for Gono’s removal,” a source said. “He seems to have changed his strategy. It appears his Plan A is to get him out if he can and, failing that, his Plan B is to sideline him.
“Removing him looks complicated, but undermining and sidelining him seems to be the main line of attack.
“Biti said Gono ran a parallel government structure using public funds and no one in cabinet challenged that.”
Biti’s remarks came as a major surprise after the two held a private meeting on Monday in a bid to reduce tensions.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that Biti and Gono met on Monday and agreed to work together.
Before that, their relationship was so bad that Biti had not been talking to Gono. Biti had been refusing to return Gono’s calls, sources said.
They said there was hope of improved relations after Monday’s crucial meeting but things unexpectedly deteriorated afterwards.
Last week Biti described Gono’s quasi-fiscal activities as “illegal”.
He said quasi-fiscal activities had now ceased, blaming the measures for fuelling hyperinflation. Gono has insisted he was trying to save the country from sinking.
BY DUMISANI MULEYA