Posted on March 1, 2007

Zimbabwe Bank Chief Attacks Land Grab

Telegraph (London), Mar. 1, 2007

One of the most powerful figures in Zimbabwe has issued a damning indictment of President Robert Mugabe’s policies by publicly criticising the actions of the people allocated land seized from white owners.

Gideon Gono, the governor of the central reserve bank, appeared to acknowledge that his nation had been shattered by Mr Mugabe’s “land reform programme”.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mr Gono also acknowledged that the lack of food production had led to food imports gobbling up foreign currency reserves desperately needed for fuel and spare parts for machinery.

Mr Gono told a panel of MPs in Harare that many black farmers, including politicians, who resettled on former white-owned farms, were failing to produce food.

“There are some people who have become professional land occupiers, vandalising equipment and moving from one farm to another,” Mr Gono told a parliamentary committee on home affairs.

Mr Gono said he received desperate telephones calls daily from government enterprises including food distributors, the state gasoline procurement agency, the loss-making national airline, the state railroad company and the main power utility. He said that they had all demanded hard currency for imported materials.

He added that the central bank’s priority was to allocate hard currency for imports of corn to avert a looming food crisis, especially in southern Zimbabwe.

The committee chairman, Claudius Makova of the ruling Zanu-PF party, said its investigations showed the Zimbabwe police needed more than 15,000 vehicles but possessed just 3,000, of which half were off the road awaiting repairs and imported spare parts.

Mr Mugabe is facing growing unrest, with inflation running at almost 1,600 per cent—the highest in the world—and acute shortages of petrol, food and medicine.