Gono begs Mugabe to save nation

HARARE - Zimbabwe central bank governor Gideon Gono has written to President Robert Mugabe to tell him the country - already grappling severe food shortages - is headed for "catastrophe" next year unless he acts urgently to stop farm invasions and allow farmers to grow food. In a confidential me

mo a copy of which was shown to ZimOnline recently, Gono passionately pleads with Mugabe to intervene, telling him the situation is “reaching dangerous levels” and warning that failure to grow enough food this farming season would come back to haunt the 81-year old President and his government.

“Your Excellency, we are reaching dangerous levels in the agricultural sector. There is nothing on the ground to show that we are a nation that feeds on agriculture. Farms are derelict, farmers have no access to inputs and disturbances on the farms continue, yet the rains are already upon us,” wrote Gono in the memo dated December 5, 2005.

“Your timely intervention is needed to save the situation. It is still within our realms to save this nation from the impending crisis, which indeed could become catastrophic if we all don’t pull in the same direction,” wrote the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), who has been tasked by Mugabe to revive the country’s comatose economy.

Neither Gono nor Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, could be reached for comment on the matter.

But sources close to Gono said he had written to Mugabe as a last ditch attempt to get the President to act to rein in Cabinet ministers, top army generals, government and ruling Zanu (PF) party officials leading a fresh drive to evict the few white farmers still remaining in the country.

The RBZ chief also wanted the President to crack the whip against Agriculture Minister Joseph Made who many feel has failed to ensure timely availability of seeds, fertilizer and other farm inputs ahead of the rainy season that began last month.

Gono has since his 2003 appointment as RBZ governor spoken strongly against farm invasions and under-utilisation of land by black farmers resettled on former white farms. He has received support from Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa but has had little support from other senior government officials.

Made and powerful State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is also in charge of land reform, have openly disregarded Gono’s calls for farm invasions to stop, instead urging militant government supporters to seize more land with Mutasa at one time said to have publicly called white farmers “filth that needs to be cleaned away”.

Made was not available for comment on the matter yesterday but Mutasa denied he was at loggerheads with Gono over farm invasions and land reform. Mutasa said that he had met Gono “recently” and that the two were of the same mind on the need to produce more food this farming season.

He said: “I have held meetings with Dr Gono very recently and we are of the same mind. And as I speak to you now, we are redoubling our efforts to make sure that we have a successful season.”

But Gono boldly hinted at his displeasure with Made and Mutasa in his memo to Mugabe. He wrote: “Esteemed ministries handling land reform and agriculture need to be equipped with knowledge and skills to appreciate that their roles are matters of life and death.

“Figures have been presented to your offices as well as those of other government arms and there is no need for amplification. But what is on the farms, the routine disturbances, the failure to farm will haunt us. Indeed we might lose this sector forever.”

Mugabe admitted for the first time during a conference of his Zanu (PF) party last weekend that his chaotic and often violent land redistribution exercise contributed to severe food shortages in Zimbabwe.

The farm seizures, which Mugabe launched a year after the International Monetary Fund withdrew balance-of-payments support to his government, knocked Zimbabwe’s agriculture-based economy completely off the rails, triggering a severe recession that has been described by the World Bank as unprecedented in a country not at war.

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme says by end of January it will be providing food aid to about three million Zimbabweans or a quarter of the country’s 12 million people. – ZimOnline

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