HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa dashed hopes of change in the country by unveiling an uninspiring Cabinet on Thursday night described by analysts as the mother of all anti-climaxes.
Mnangagwa, who had lifted the nation’s hopes after giving an impressive acceptance speech on November 24 before making the first steps towards tackling rampant corruption, left Zimbabweans at a loss for words after he recycled deadwood and ignored calls for gender parity and the advancement of youths.
It had been hoped that he would appoint members of the opposition to his Cabinet to form a transitional government until elections next year but this did not happen.
Peeved by his choice of ministers, many took to social media to air their disappointment on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti remarked that Zimbabweans were “wrong” to have hoped for change.
“Up until now, we had given the putsch the benefit of the doubt. We did so in the genuine, perhaps naive view that the country could actually move forward. We craved change, peace and stability in our country. How wrong we were,” he told BBC.
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, described it as a power-play Cabinet, designed to overwhelm residual discontent in Zanu PF.
He said it was also meant to reward the military and securitise government, and only then to look (possibly) at economic reform.
“One technocratic Finance minister, and no opposition members, simply underwhelms the West that is being courted for reinvestment,” said Chan.
Mnangagwa’s government has 22 Cabinet minister and six deputies. Just like former president Robert Mugabe before him, he is continuing with Provincial Affairs ministers, numbering 10.
Among the 22 ministers are two army generals — Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Marshal Perrance Shiri (minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement) and Major General Sibusiso Moyo (minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade).
Major General Sibusiso Moyo
Moyo became the face of the recent military takeover on November 14. He holds a PhD in International Relations and at one point was the leader of the elite military unit, known as the “green berets squad”.
The bulk of the Cabinet ministers, including the three technocrats in his line up, are Mnangagwa loyalists and career ministers from Mugabe’s era, among them Patrick Chinamasa (Finance), Obert Mpofu (Home Affairs and Culture), Kembo Mohadi (Defence and State Security), Sithembiso Nyoni (Women and Youth Affairs), Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (Water and Climate), July Moyo (Local Government) and Mike Bimha (Industry and Commerce).
The three technocrats are professor Clever Nyathi (Labour and Social Welfare), professor Amon Murwira (Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Education) and Mimosa Mining company chief executive officer Winston Chitando (Mines and Mining Development).
Mnangagwa’s six deputy ministers are Terrence Mukupe (Finance and Economic Development), David Marapira (Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement), Paul Mavima (Primary and Secondary Education), Victor Matemadanda (War Veterans), Pupurai Togarepi (Youth Affairs) and Joshua Malinga (Social Welfare).
Kent University law lecturer and political analyst Alex Magaisa said after returning the same old faces, Mnangagwa might find it hard to teach his old friends new tricks.
He opined that the three technocrats are too few and would be diluted by the presence of recycled faces from the old era.
“One of the cautionary notes given by some observers when Mugabe was being removed from power was that while the man was on his way out, it remained to be seen whether the system that he had created was also going with him,” he reasoned.
“It would be harder to dismantle this system and the institutional culture built over 37 years. For seasoned watchers of the Zimbabwean political scene, it was hard not to be cautious, given that the authors of Mugabe’s ouster were part of that system.
Magaisa said while Mnangagwa had given some positive vibes in his first few days, his choice of Cabinet ministers was a strong reminder that the institutional culture created by his predecessor has deep-seated roots.
He said Mnangagwa was still unable to see beyond the world and characters that Mugabe created because he has had to bring back the same characters that failed dismally under Mugabe.
“For most observers, this looks like a reward for the military or more specifically, like the military asserting its authority. It goes without saying that the military were the key drivers in the removal of Mugabe and the change of government,” said Magaisa.
Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, felt the people of Zimbabwe were sold a dummy when their expectations were raised last month only for the hope to be snuffed out within seconds.
Saungweme said Zanu PF had been given a new lease of life, ridding on the anti-Mugabe coup sentiment that resulted in demonstrations.
“He copied and pasted Mugabe’s. It confirms the coup was merely to get rid of G40 and replace it with G75. It’s a tough painful lesson that people should not just go where the drum is beating. People must never follow any noise,” said Saungweme.
“I don’t expect change from this bloated Cabinet with a bunch of old deadwood. We are doomed as a nation. Opposition has to organise, renew its leadership and face Zanu PF head-on,” he added.
Even some of Mnangagwa’s sympathisers were left gutted after he unveiled an uninspiring Cabinet.
Independent candidate for Norton constituency, Temba Mliswa, said the president has “burst the bubble of hope” among an expectant nation.
“After the new Cabinet, the sensation of hope that had been born from the post Mugabe era, has just been extinguished. I cannot say too much. It was supposed to be about national interest,” observed Mliswa.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said a glance at the appointees makes one think that this was an award and medal conferring ceremony for the Team Lacoste faction that won the recent power struggle.
By plucking generals from active army service into Cabinet, Gwede said Mnangagwa has continued with the militarisation of government from where Mugabe left.
“Most of the ministers are deadwood, having seen long service in the former president Robert Mugabe’s lackluster government,” said Gwede.
“The inclusivity part is not evident, apart from inclusion of a mining executive from ED’s home province and a university professor,” he added.
The overriding narrative gleaned from the appointees is that of jobs for the close gentlemen and ladies, typical of Zanu PF cabinets the nation is now accustomed to.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure described Mnangagwa’s Cabinet as a transitional authority where the old was mixed with the new.
“At best one can say this is a caretaker Cabinet because it will not last for more than nine months. The disappointment may be tempered because it is a transitional Cabinet from Mugabe,” said Masunungure.
He added that the inclusion of the likes of Prisca Mupfumira as the new minister of Tourism after having been dropped from government by Mugabe two months ago shows that Mnangagwa was thanking those who were persecuted because of his presidential ambitions.
“At heart it was a thank you Cabinet to those who soldiered on under Mugabe, those have been taken in and rehabilitated and this explains the inclusion of Mupfumira and the army,” said Masunungure.
Playwright Leonard Matsa said the feeling in the streets was one of betrayal and disappointment.
“This is a predominantly white-hair testosterone Cabinet out of sync with his inauguration speech. Seems the joke is on those of us who wanted to give ED a chance thinking Zanu PF can ever change its spots,” said Matsa.
Matsa cautioned that the opposition should not drink to this disaster seeing how the war veterans and the army are now deeply entrenched in Zanu PF politics.
“The future is frightening,” he said.
Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika said the new Cabinet was a reality check for a lot of Zimbabweans who had dared to hope after the events of this November.
“It is heavily militarised, male dominated, lacking in easily discernible technocratic competencies. Its let down is not so much in its gender-blind composition nor its militarisation, but in its limited ability to inspire confidence — the people will largely fend for themselves but can usually do so if they believe their government is competent enough to provide a conducive environment for their enterprise, and this government doesn’t promote such faith.
“At the end of the day we need to spare a thought for ED who all week was being set up for failure by the logical expectations of people around change and lean cabinet included. We need to spare a thought for him also because just as it seemed Mugabe was forced to resign with a gun next to his head and Zanu PF was forced to call back ED with a gun next to their heads. It seems ED will be forced to govern with a gun next to his head,” said Lewanika.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said his party will give the new Cabinet the benefit of doubt.
“The jury is still out. After the first 100 days, we shall give them another frank and robust assessment,” he said.
Hotelier Gordon Adams said given that there is an election next year, the new Cabinet will have to work hard to gain public confidence and be responsible for their positions if they wish to see a future in politics.
“There was a lot of hype as to a possible unity government but given that the elections are in 2018 — best the new Cabinet makes good of this short period to make positive changes for Zimbabwe to foster investment and goodwill for all citizens of our beloved country, Zimbabwe to enjoy,” said Adams.