At the height of the 2004 liquidity crisis, the then newly appointed central bank governor, Gideon Gono, cracked down on local banks with the zeal of a crusader and sent several owner-managers scattering.
Gono accused the banks of abusing depositor funds, engaging in illicit foreign currency trades and failing to uphold sound corporate governance standards.
Mthuli Ncube, who had set up his Barbican Bank in 2003, was one of the bank owners caught up in the central bank’s dragnet. Headlines from that era routinely described him as the “troubled banker” battling to retain his assets.
After that ordeal, Ncube, who denies he fled from the country during the bank crisis, went on an odyssey which took him from Johannesburg, Accra, London and Zurich, his last haunt before his imminent return to settle in Harare.
Appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as Finance Minister on Friday, Ncube now sits at the centre of efforts to turn around an economy whose many troubles are often tracked back to the 2004 banking crisis.
Ncube returns home from Zurich, where he headed the research arm of Quantum Global Group, an Africa-focused private equity outfit with investments in agriculture, hospitality, mining, timber, infrastructure and healthcare.
Some of Quantum’s portfolio investments are in Angola, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and South Africa.
During his time at Quantum, Ncube led research into African investment opportunities, advising private sector and public sector clients on Africa and African policy-makers, giving him invaluable insight into where Zimbabwe currently stands, compared to its peers on the continent.
Before joining the Quantum Group, Ncube served as the chief economist and vice president of the African Development Bank, another role which would have strengthened his grasp of the continent’s economic terrain.
Zimbabwe, which owes the AfDB $600 million, could benefit from Ncube’s network at the international lender.
Speaking before his appointment, Ncube said Zimbabwe needs to address its foreign debt in order to restore its creditworthiness and credibility with multilateral lenders.
“So what one would do is to deal with Zimbabwe’s external debt. There’s two parts to that, firstly there is the debt that is owed to multilateral institutions such as the African Development Bank, World Bank and that needs to be dealt with first before any credit or monies can flow from these institutions,” he said in an August 2 interview.
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