DISAPPOINTED but not surprised! That was the reaction almost every Zimbabwean had after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced his cabinet.
From the moment Mnangagwa was sworn in as president, he promised to push a pro-economic thrust and in line with this vision, people hoped he would put up a respectable and effective cabinet.
Since assuming office, Mnangagwa’s political rhetoric was simple and catchy – “focus is on reviving the economy” but with his recent cabinet pick, Zimbabweans can only ask if he can still manage to do that or he has just dismantled the dream.
It is no secret Zimbabweans are unhappy with Mnangagwa’s cabinet picks and they have pointed out his cabinet seeks to reward his loyalists and the military more, rather than serving national interests.
To a greater extent, cabinet picks set the tone and direction a president wants to relate to public policy and in the same vein, Zimbabweans too had made their own perspective of a government according to what President Mnangagwa has envisioned for the economy.
In a “new Zimbabwe,” the public hoped President Mnangagwa would go out of his Zanu PF family, somehow reach out to the opposition and miraculously create a transitional government one that would safely steer the country until polls next year.
But looking at his cabinet choices, President Mnangagwa confirms he is still a Zanu PF stalwart and it has become clear that he simply did not make bad choices out of necessity, he purposely made some appointees to prop his stronghold in power.
For instance, he armed his cabinet with some members of the military, who partook in the ‘soft’ coup that took out former president Robert Mugabe.
Major General Sibusiso Moyo, spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, who in November 14, 2017 went to the national broadcaster ZTV and announced the military had moved to secure the then president (Mugabe) and arrest criminal elements around him, is now Minister of Foreign Affairs. From army spokesperson, General Moyo will now be in charge of Zimbabwe’s international diplomatic relations. Next, Head of Zimbabwe’s Air Force, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, became Minister of Lands and Agriculture.
While some are wondering what the military is doing in political matters, an analyst at a recent SAPES dialogue meeting, Ibbo Mandaza said: “Whether we like it or not the military is now above the executive and the constitution. That is a major challenge. Especially with elections expected next year.”
The inclusion of the military in the cabinet is hard not to dismiss as an armed wing of Zanu PF or a gesture of thanks for their role in the military intervention that heralded Mugabe’s fall.
Some of Mnangagwa’s alleged loyalists who also made it to cabinet include July Moyo from Midlands (Mnangagwa’s home province), who is now Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
Chris Mutsvangwa who was axed by Mugabe’s previous administration is now Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services. His wife, Monica Mutsvangwa who was fired along with him, is now Minister of State for Manicaland.
Secretary- General of a faction of war vets that were loyal to Mnangagwa when he was still vice president, Victor Matemadanda, is now Deputy Minister for War Veterans. Former Zanu PF youth league leader, who had been replaced by a now incarcerated Kudzanai Chipanga, Pupurayi Togarepi comes in as Deputy Minister for Youth Affairs.
As for balancing up the gender makeup of the cabinet, Mnangagwa only appointed three women out of 22 ministerial posts.
These women are Oppah Muchinguri who still heads the Environment, Water and Climate Ministry. Sithembiso Nyoni moved from the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises and is now Minister of Women and Youth Affairs. Prisca Mupfumira who was dropped in Mugabe’s previous cabinet reshuffle bounces back as Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
As for the youth composition in cabinet, one can only laugh. There are more ministers that are senior in age rather than younger fresh minds required in today’s ever-evolving economy that needs constant innovation.
This is problematic because Zimbabwe’s major population is dominated by youth while females make up most of the majority and according to the official 2012 census, women are almost 52 percent.
What has irked Zimbabweans more is that President Mngangagwa just recycled the same old notorious former Zanu PF ministers into his new cabinet yet they had been part and parcel of the previous administration that administered ‘doom’ for the country.
These former ministers are compromised big wigs and their inclusion in this supposedly new cabinet has awakened Zimbabweans to the fact that this is still a Zanu PF script of doing things.
To be fair, and according to the constitution, it was clear President Mnangagwa would have a huge task of putting up an efficient cabinet. Cabinet members had to be chosen from a pool of elected members of parliament (MPs) and constitutionally, according to Section 104 of Zimbabwe’s constitution, the president was allowed to select five non-elected MPs chosen for their professional skills to serve in his administration.
However, there are observations that the president appointed more than five non-MPs, bringing up a debate on what criteria he used to by-pass the constitution.
This serves as a lesson to the sundry that when voting, the electorate must think of a candidate’s capability, not popularity because that choice would come back and bite them.
In total Mnangagwa’s administration is made up of 22 ministers, six deputy ministers, and 11 ministers of state, 39 in overall yet he had promised to have a much leaner cabinet in order to cut costs. This figure indicates it is hard to achieve a lean system when one has to reward their ‘guard dogs’ or ‘show dogs.’
Some have asked why people are shocked with this Zanu PF cabinet because that is the ruling party’s nature and besides, what has been done has been done.
Zimbabweans can only hope that President Mnangagwa can dominate his cabinet, push an economic agenda and override any opposition that comes his way.
Think of Margaret Thatcher who rode over any opposition in her cabinet and insisted that her will should be done. In her maiden years, Thatcher had to prove herself when she faced opposition from ministers who were against her policies, especially those that had to do with public spending.
President Mnangagwa too has spoken about reducing public expenditure; therefore, he should establish his authority and deal with ‘senior’ ministers who may not support the economic policies he sets out.
Because he spoke deeply about reforming the economy, the public still has expectations that his administration will offer interventions needed to revive Zimbabwe’s economy.
Zimbabweans need a government that can provide polices that will help support the functioning of Zimbabwe’s economy. People deserve a cabinet that is accountable, effective and realistic!
If this fails, the public should register to vote and usher in a government of their choice next year.