- The Reserve Bank Governor of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono, is on a controversial bid among the Zimbabwean Diaspora to use official channels when sending money back home. While the government hopes to gain access to more foreign currency, angry Zimbabwean expatriates say they will not support the government that caused them to flee their country.
Bank Director Gono this month visited "enemy" lands as he flew to Washington and London to promote his government's new "Homelink programme". Here and in South Africa, the top man of Zimbabwe's banking system addressed the growing Zimbabwean Diaspora, presenting a new and lucrative way of sending money home to their families through the programme.
According to Mr Gono, Zimbabweans in the Diaspora would get favourable rates for their money using the "Homelink programme". Foreign exchange transactions to Zimbabwe through this programme would be absolutely safe and produce better rates than the official exchange rates, which grossly overvalue the Zimbabwean dollar.
For the Zimbabwean government, chronically short of foreign exchange due to its overrated currency, getting hand on the large amounts of cash sent to Zimbabweans by the millions of nationals living abroad could make a significant economic difference. The new programme is meant to facilitate foreign currency inflows into the country, thus facilitating economic growth, Mr Gono told Zimbabweans abroad.
Travelling around the US, the UK and South Africa, the Zimbabwean Reserve Bank Governor however mainly was met with protest. Already at his first stop in Britain, at Zimbabwe House in London, Mr Gono was confronted by angry protestors. The same happened in the British cities of Luton and Birmingham, where hundreds of angry Zimbabweans demonstrated.
At all of the meetings, Mr Gono was interrupted by exiled Zimbabweans asking him about the human rights situation at home - a question the Bank Governor declined to answer. He was met by protest voices urging Zimbabweans not to use the "Homelink programme" introduced by the government.
- To add salt to injury, [President Robert Mugabe] sends his messenger to ask me to send my money to bankroll his regime when its policies drove me to exile, shouted Joshua Rusere, a Zimbabwean, who disrupted a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Johannesburg meeting proved disastrous to the Bank Governor. Even before Mr Gono could start presenting the programme, activists of Zimbabwe's MDC opposition party stormed the stage, waving placards and shouting "Go home, go home!" South African police had to interrupt the meeting and escort Mr Gono and the Zimbabwean Ambassador out of the premises.
Also among opposition activists within Zimbabwe, the "Homelink programme" promoted by Mr Gono abroad has caused outrage. Sokwanele, a non-violent Zimbabwean civic action group fighting to remove President Mugabe's regime, questioned how Mr Gono could have been allowed to enter the UK despite of the current EU sanctions list. The list is "obviously in need of urgent review," Sokwanele commented.
The activist group says it is not likely that the Zimbabwean Diaspora would "be duped by such a propaganda offensive". The millions that have fled the Mugabe regime would not invest their "hard-earned dollars" in bolstering the government they escaped.
Another local activist group, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, commented that Mr Gono should have understood that his mission abroad was deemed to fail. "While Gono's intentions to revive the economy are benevolent, he should understand that as long as he is perceived to be a messenger of the government, the opponents of the establishment would concertedly frustrate his efforts."
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