Africa

Zimbabwe Cabinet reshuffle – an exercise of power, not a plan to address an ailing economy

Following comments by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe that it was time to review the performance of his cabinet ministers, a cabinet reshuffle was announced by the Chief Secretary in the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, on Monday. And while the reshuffle did not go all out to end Emmerson Mnangagwa’s political career, it has weakened him. By SALLY NYAKANYANGA.

Ten cabinet ministers have been reassigned and eight new appointments have been made by Mugabe. Two new ministries have been added while others have been merged.

Mugabe hinted at the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle at the weekend during a ZANU-PF Youth Wing meeting held in Harare.

Of the key ministries impacted by the reshuffle was the Finance and Economic Development ministry. Ignatius Chombo has been assigned to lead that ministry, while former Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa was reassigned to the new ministry on Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation. Christopher Mushowe has been appointed to the new ministry of State in the President’s Office responsible for National Scholarships, while Simon Khaya Moyo takes over the Media, Information and Broadcasting Services ministry.

The appointment of the Central Intelligence Office boss, Happyton Bonyongwe to  Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is seen as a promotion in the face of  Mnangagwa’s demotion.

Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, said:  “Previously, Generation-40 (G-40), a rival faction within ZANU-PF, has accused Mnangagwa of abusing the Justice ministry to further his successionist agenda through constitutional amendment to control the appointment of the Chief Justice and Prosecutor General.”

Former Information and Communication Technology minister Webster Shamu and Deputy Health Minister Paul Chimedza have bounced back as provincial ministers.

“Recycling dead wood, is a common Mugabe strategy over the past three decades. Walter Mzembi, former Tourism minister has been reassigned to the Foreign Affairs ministry. Chimedza and Mzembi have been elevated in Masvingo as G-40 functionaries ahead of Mnangagwa’s loyalists,” Mavhinga said.

Shamu and Chimedza were among dozens of ZANU-PF party officials who were suspended in 2014 on allegations of working with former Vice President Joice Mujuru to oust Mugabe.

Mavhinga said while the reshuffle did not go all out to end Mnangagwa’s political career, it has weakened him, through the removal of the former War Veterans minister, Tshinga Dube and Public Service, Labour and Social Services Elizabeth Mupfumira, who were known Mnangagwa’s allies.

“Mnangagwa’s Justice ministry has been taken away from him, meanwhile Mugabe has reassigned and promoted the Generation-40 faction,” said Mavhinga.

Media and political analyst, Maggie Mzumara saw the reshuffle as more of a political statement than anything else. “Nothing about this reshuffle exercise looks geared towards addressing the fundamentals of our ailing economy. While the economy burns on, ZANU-PF politics continue to hold the nation to ransom with no end in sight for factional sideshows,” said Mzumara.

Over the past week, Zimbabwe has experienced rising inflation, a shortage of basic commodities such as cooking oil in supermarkets and fuel queues have started to emerge. The bond notes introduced last year by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) have lost their value on the informal market. Businesses are struggling to restock, while prices continue to sky rocket particularly on new stock due to the difficulties companies are facing in accessing foreign currency from the RBZ.

“Zimbabwe, with a collapsed economy needs a small, lean and efficient cabinet but Mugabe has bloated his cabinet with meaningless posts like Cyber Security just to reward his cronies and keep them close,” Mavhinga told Daily Maverick.

It is believed that the decisive blow over Mugabe’s opponents will probably come after the 2018 harmonised elections as acting now can result in serious political turbulence.

Mnangagwa is said to be caught between a rock and a hard place. “Mnangagwa’s strategy has been to move cautiously and yet his supporters are under siege. He could very well be a sitting duck unable to openly challenge Mugabe who is playing his cards in the background whilst G-40 is in the front,” Mavhinga added. 

Mavhinga explained that it comes as a relief to Mnangagwa’s allies that Mugabe did not go all out for them, but it leaves little room for them to do anything that would  improve their political fortunes. DM

Sally Nyakanyanga is an independent journalist and development specialist based in Zimbabwe. She covers human rights, gender, developmental or humanitarian issues. She has written for News Deeply, Africa Renewal, Inter Press Services (IPS), Mail and Guardian (Bhekisisa), Irin News and Open Democracy

Photo: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (R) is flanked by his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa (L) as he reads a copy of the country's 2017 National Budget in the house of parliament, in Harare, Zimbabwe, 08 December 2016. Photo: EPA/AARON UFUMELI

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