Central bank governor Gideon Gono lashed out at greedy “economic saboteurs” and indisciplined elements on whom he vowed the government would clamp down as it became apparent he had run out of options to turn around the economy.
He even urged the government to build jails in rural areas to house the saboteurs and to deploy some to farms that were suffering from labour shortages.
The Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe boss John Mufukare said the economy would come to a complete halt if the government went through with this strict enforcement.
Gono’s policy seemed to have fuelled the parallel market instead of curbing it with the diaspora rate which had been raised to Z$9 000 ending up a third of the parallel rate.
The United States embassy commented that Gono’s announcement must have been personally humiliating and signalled his “eclipse as a putatively meaningful player in the Mugabe regime”.
Viewing cable 05HARARE740, ECONOMIC POLICY STATEMENT OFFERS LITTLE HOPE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000740
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
EB/IFD/OMA FOR F. CHISHOLM
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: ECONOMIC POLICY STATEMENT OFFERS LITTLE HOPE
REF: HARARE 737
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s Monetary
Policy Statement of May 19 set out a series of piecemeal
prescriptions that most local economists and business people
agree will be unable to stem Zimbabwe’s continued economic
decline, including soaring inflation, a deteriorating
currency, and moribund exports. The statement confirms that
the GOZ,s economic policies will rely increasingly on state
intervention rather than liberalization that could offer hope
for the private sector. Zimbabwe’s ongoing economic decline
has accelerated since Gono’s announcement. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (U) The new policies/recommendations Gono announced May
— An upwardly revised “diaspora exchange rate” to 9000:1
(about 1/3 of the current parallel rate); no change to the
controlled auction system for local enterprises.
— upward revision in interest rates to 160 percent for
secured lending and 170 percent for unsecured lending
(slightly above the officially published rate of inflation).
— establishment of Z$5 trillion (US$800 million at the
current auction rate) Agricultural Sector Productive
Enhancement Facility available at 20 percent interest rates.
— establishment of Z$100 billion (US$16 million) export
market fund available for exporters at 5 percent interest
rates (“exporter” not defined).
— subsidies for cotton and tobacco industries.
— boosting of export incentive bonuses.
— statutory reserves for building societies hiked to 35
— barring of “non-essential” imports from Zimbabwe
— tightening of regulation of numerous sectors, including
banks, finance companies, real estate agents, and building
— tighter controls on operation of foreign currency accounts.
— heavy enforcement efforts against all violators.
¶3. (C) In his 2 -hour nationally televised address, Gono
lashed out at the greedy “economic saboteurs” and
indisciplined elements on whom Gono vowed the GOZ would clamp
down. He urged that new jails be built in rural areas to
house them and that they be put to work on farms that were
suffering from a labor shortages. He was no less truculent
in his briefing to foreign diplomats, citing with approval
the Chinese execution of a CEO of a major conglomerate in the
early 1990s. Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (ECZ)
Chairman John Mufukare told econoff on May 23 that the
economy would come to a complete halt if the GOZ followed
through on its promises of strict enforcement. However,
Mufukare predicted that the GOZ would relax restrictions
after a couple of weeks of flexing its muscle (see reftel on
government crackdown against the informal economy).
Forex Crisis to Continue
¶4. (SBU) Perhaps most disappointing to the private sector
has been Gono’s failure to address the forex crunch. By not
changing the totally inadequate forex auction, which has been
satisfying less than one percent of bids, the GOZ assures
that ballooning local demand for forex will continue to be
unmet, further suffocating an economy gasping for imported
inputs. Asked during a diplomatic briefing on May 20 how
companies who needed forex but could not access it through
the auction (describing virtually all formal economy players
here), Gono could only offer “by all means other than illegal
¶5. (SBU) In the week since Gono’s announcement, the parallel
rate has risen from 20-22,000:1 to about 24-25,000:1, and the
“blend rate” (rate used by companies for inter-company
transactions) has risen from 13,000:1 to 16,000:1. Thus, the
45 percent devaluation in the diaspora exchange rate has done
nothing to arrest the Zimdollar’s slide on the market.
Moreover, local economists predict its slide will accelerate
now that the GOZ has made clear it will offer no relief.
Hyper-Inflation to Continue
¶6. (SBU) The GOZ’s promises of subsidies and below-market
credit will far outstrip its capacity and continue to the
fuel the inflation rate. Local economist John Robertson
related to econoff on May 24 that cotton subsidies alone
would cost an estimated Z$525-700 billion (US$85-110
million). Subsidies to support last year’s volume of tobacco
sales would amount to Z$1.9 trillion (US$305 million). By
way of perspective, the total currency in circulation in
Zimbabwe in 2004 was Z$1.9 trillion. Asked at his diplomatic
briefing how the GOZ would fund such generosity, Gono could
only suggest it would shift money from inefficient
parastatals. A more likely answer is continued acceleration
of the money supply, which has been growing by over 200
percent in recent months.
Lending to Dry Up
¶7. (C) Local Finhold Bank economist Best Doroh on May 24
told econoff that the margins available to banks under the
new rates and regime would not support much lending,
especially in the areas targeted by the government. Even
before the policy statement, banks were limiting lending
largely to consumer loans, which he predicted would soon dry
up as well. Mufukare stressed that easy local money did
nothing to help local productivity since foreign suppliers
would not accept it and it only fueled inflation; what
producers needed first and foremost was access to foreign
Economic Activity Likely to Shrink Further
¶8. (C) Gono’s measures have deflated expectations throughout
the private sector. Dulux Paints, for example, confides that
it will cease domestic operations if it cannot access forex
with which to import needed inputs. Colgate-Palmolive
reports that it is now limiting operations to maintenance
activities; production has stopped, principally due to a lack
of diesel fuel that the new policies did nothing to address.
Coca Cola told us that it was imposing compulsory leave of
three months for selected staff.
¶9. (C) Gono’s announcement must have been personally
humiliating and signals his eclipse as a putatively
meaningful player in the Mugabe regime. For months, he had
been promising private sector players and diplomats that he
would be able to deliver a meaningful devaluation and
effective curbs on inflation after the parliamentary
elections. Local press had reported in the weeks preceding
the address that Gono had tried unsuccessfully to resign,
foreshadowing that his recommendations were finding little
purchase with Mugabe. His final offering delivered nothing
to an economy that can be expected to deteriorate further.
It underscores the primacy of politics – i.e. Mugabe’s own
ideology and assessment of personal self-interest – over
national economic interest. With no GOZ or ZANU-PF advocates
for economic reform willing to stand up to Mugabe, we see no
prospect for meaningful economic reform in the foreseeable
¶10. (C) Since Gono’s policy statement the regime has
reverted to its typical authoritarian practices, using the
police to enforce its crackdown on the informal sector
(reftel). Over the past weeks hundreds of small businesses
have been burned down or toppled, “illegal” housing (often
built initially with GOZ encouragement) is being bulldozed,
and as many as ten thousand informal sector merchants have
been detained (according to the state media). Fuel cannot be
found anywhere in Harare, public transport has ground to a
halt and staples such as corn meal, sugar and milk have
disappeared from stores. The assault on the informal sector
markets – a traditional “survival mechanism” for the urban
population seems illogical but many Zimbabweans believe
Mugabe is deliberately trying to provoke confrontation in
order to crush any and all opposition to his regime.