Gono assures Stanchart depositors

HARARE - Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono says Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe Limited (Standard Chartered) will not be closed, despite threats by the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb) to shut down the financial institution.

Nieeb recently threatened to shut down the British-owned bank until it complied with the country’s indigenisation laws sending jitters among depositors.

Bankers who spoke to the Daily News at the weekend
viewed the pronouncements as “reckless statements made by people who might be ignorant of the consequences”.

Since the announcement by Nieeb, there have been jitters and instability in the country’s sensitive financial services sector amid fears clients would withdraw their deposits from  Standard Chartered Bank fearing losing their hard-earned savings.

Gono yesterday however said depositors should not panic as no bank would be closed without the approval of the central bank.

“All stakeholders of the bank and indeed, of other banks are hereby advised not to panic or wantonly withdraw their funds from the bank as the central bank which is the sole authority which issues and withdraws banking licences from players in the Zimbabwean financial sector has not signalled any move in the direction intimated by Nieeb nor in any other way suggesting that Standard Chartered Bank will lose its business licence for any reason in the near future,” said Gono.

The central bank chief said he had no intention of violating the Reserve Bank Act, Chapter 22:15 Sections 6 (1) which requires the RBZ to foster the liquidity, solvency, stability and proper functioning of Zimbabwe’s financial system and to supervise banking institutions and  promote the smooth operation of the payment system in Zimbabwe, among other things.

The Act also requires the RBZ to act as banker and financial adviser to, and fiscal agent of, the State, among other functions.

“We have not given any advice to the State which supports the position announced by Nieeb officials other than that whatever we do as government, the action(s) must be legal, measured and for the benefit of the broad-based majority of Zimbabweans,” said Gono.

Gono reiterated that he was not against foreign companies’ transferring at least 51 percent of their Zimbabwe operations to locals under laws aimed at economically empowering the country’s black majority.

“We are for the orderly implementation of the Indigenisation and Empowerment programme as spelt out in the Empowerment and Indigenisation Act Chapter 14:33 and the Regulations thereof, bearing in mind though that in implementing this law due regard and observation must be made of other pieces of legislation on our books which serve to complement or counterbalance each other,” he said.

Gono said the Indigenisation Act must work in cohorts with and not infringe on other Acts such as the Exchange Control Act and Regulations Chapter 22:05, the Reserve Bank Act Chapter 22:15, the Procurement Act Chapter 22:14 and the Public Finance Management Act Chapter 22:19 among others.

“The template of Zimbabwe’s indigenisation and empowerment programme is for all Zimbabweans to contribute towards its fulfilment in the best interests of the broad masses of identifiable beneficiaries and we believe that in the Banking Sector, it is still work-in-progress and no one should take precipitous positions that are to the detriment of the sector as a whole,” he said.

“Destabilising a large bank such as Standard Chartered has serious systemic consequences that can lead to unintended results which are opposite to those that we would have hoped to achieve.”

Gono advised Standard Chartered Bank clients to go about their business in a sober and normal manner “because nothing of the sort which was announced by Nieeb officials is of any legal or practical effect”.

The statement by Gono was copied to Finance minister Tendai Biti, Nieeb chairman Mike Nyambuya and chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda. Gono did not copy Indigenisation minister, Savior Kasukuwere. - John Kachembere

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