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Cablegate: Gono Attempts to Defuse Protests Over Cash Limits

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EFIN ASEC PHUM ZI
SUBJECT: GONO ATTEMPTS TO DEFUSE PROTESTS OVER CASH LIMITS

1. (SBU) Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono announced in late
November that the central bank raised the individual and
corporate cash withdrawal limits from Z$500,000 and Z$1
million a day to Z$100 million and Z$50 million respectively
once a week. The changes will be effective December 4 and
are intended to defuse a scheduled protest march on December
3 by civil society groups demanding unlimited cash
withdrawals. In a November 30 article in the
government-controlled newspaper the Sunday Mail, Gono blamed
the need for cash withdrawal limits on Western sanctions.

2. (SBU) Despite the increase in withdrawal limits, Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) spokesperson Kumbulani Ndlovu
told us on December 1 that her organization would stage
protests at banks demanding the removal of all limits. She
believed that Gono's policy change came in response to the
threat of large scale protests by ZCTU and other cooperating
organizations. She said that the revised higher withdrawal
limits would not impact the protests as it would only be a
matter of time before the new limits become inadequate. ZCTU
is asking its members to protest in front of their respective
banks beginning at eight thirty in the morning. Ndlovu cited
a similar situation in September 2008 when ZCTU was
threatening protests over cash withdrawal limits and Gono
immediately raised the limit. Consequently ZCTU canceled
their protest, a move the organization now regrets.

3. (SBU) Lovemore Madhuku, president of the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA), has asked his supporters to
join the ZCTU protest to bolster their numbers. Madhuku told
us on December 1 that ZCTU told him that they hoped to
mobilize between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters. NCA might be
able to contribute an additional 800 people, which is the
number Madhuku said participated in last week's NCA march.

-------
COMMENT
-------

4. (SBU) Gono's upward revision of withdrawal limits is
consistent with his previous stop-gap attempts to defuse
public anger towards his monetary policies. We're encouraged
that ZCTU and NCA are not buying it this time around.
Equally positive is that the two organizations are
consolidating their protest efforts, but we'll have to see if
they can mobilize several thousand protesters. END COMMENT.

McGee

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