Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's branch of the Movement for Democratic Change on Tuesday dismissed an assertion by President Robert Mugabe that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono will not be stepping down, calling it unacceptable.
The Tsvangirai MDC wing issued a statement saying Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana must both step down, also demanding a forensic audit of the central bank.
A deadlock between Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai, the latter backed by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of a rival MDC formation, has been referred to the Southern African Development Community and African Union. The two African organizations ushered Zimbabwe's national unity government into existence and stand as its guarantors.
Political sources said Gono in desperation has launched a media campaign to frame the calls for his resignation as a personal vendetta by MDC Finance Minister Tendai Biti.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that a prison guard at Harare's notorious Chikurubi Prison was arrested on charges he acted on orders from Biti to seek incriminating evidence against Gono concerning a farm mechanization program.
Biti dismissed the accusation lodged through the state newspaper, calling it fictitious.
Reports said Gono has threatened to resign, complaining that he has largely been abandoned by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, his only defenders Information Minister Webster Shamu, Information Ministry Permanent Secretary George Charamba and independent parliamentarian Jonathan Moyo, a former information minister.
Meanwhile, Biti has drafted amendments to the RBZ Act which provide for a non-executive director to take over as chairman of the central bank. Gono has criticized the amendments, saying they would strip him of his powers.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the decision as to who will run the central bank is one that should be reached by all three governing parties, not just ZANU-PF.
Economist John Robertson said sweeping reform is needed at the RBZ if the institution is to regain the international confidence it needs to secure reconstruction financing.
The International Monetary Fund and other multilateral financial institutions have refrained from demanding Gono's departure - but have urged reform. A team from the IMF is currently in Harare to provide technical assistance including on central bank governance.