Gono’s cows

Mugabe’s 89th birthday in 2013 occasioned a predictable round of excesses, including these:

Supporters of the President used the birthday celebration, broadcast live on national television, to shower him with gifts and praises.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono gave him 89 cows and one of the major diamond mining companies reportedly paid for the gigantic cake.

President Mugabe said he was moved by the gifts.

“The love that comes from the heart is far more valuable than the presents,” he said.

By the day Mugabe turned 89, the national currency of Zimbabwe had been out of use for about four years. A state that does not issue its own currency needs a central bank about as much as a doubly landlocked country needs a naval ministry. The generous Mr. Gono must have spent most of the years 2009-2013 doing nothing, as the head of a superfluous institution…

…but that inaction compared most favorably with his activity as the central bank governor in 2005-2009. When he was appointed, in November 2003, the year-on-year inflation rate was already above 600%: prices had risen seven-fold in the previous twelve months. Gono managed to bring inflation to just over 100% the next year, so prices would merely double every year if that rate had stabilized. It did but not for long: in the second half of 2005, inflation rates started to grow again, and Gono’s insane money-printing culminated in a half a trillion percent inflation rate late in 2008. It’s a textbook case now, of course.

Did that birthday hecatomb atone for the sin of prolonged hyperinflation in Mugabe’s view? Perhaps: there were reports of Gono as a possible successor last year. But the current heir, I’ve read, is another gentleman, nicknamed “crocodile.”

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