Mnangagwa surprisingly elects technocrats to Cabinet in shake-up

JOHANNESBURG — After a turbulent election in which the ruling Zanu-PF’s autocratic tendencies re-emerged, it looks as if Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa is keen on moving on with several fresh faces in his Cabinet. Commentators have lauded his selection of Mthuli Ncube for the post of finance minister. Ncube is a former chief economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank – he is a technocrat, through-and-through. Meanwhile, another surprise appointment is that of the world-record holder and swimmer Kirsty Coventry as sports minister. These development are the best thing for Zimbabwe right now as it tries to move on from the disastrous Mugabe-era and rebuild the country and its economy. (This piece below is courtesy of the Daily Maverick.) – Gareth van Zyl

By Daily Maverick

Zimbabwe has been going through a continuous economic downturn for the past two decades under the leadership of former President Robert Mugabe and President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised that his government would usher in change that would see the country regain its status in the international community.

Faced with a serious cash crisis that has seen three different price regimes, Mnangagwa had to carefully select his cabinet, expected to move the country away from its economic turmoil.

Mnangagwa’s appointment of Mthuli Ncube, a renowned economist, has received widespread applause, with commentators saying it’s a sign he is committed to reviving the economy.

Mnangagwa described his cabinet as diverse, dynamic and youthful, adding it had the skills and experience required to achieve his set goals.

Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on during a meeting of the Zimbabwe Business Club in Harare. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Of interest is the appointment of Zanu-PF chairperson Oppah Muchinguri, the first woman to head the ministry of Defence and War Veterans, as well as the swimming icon Kirsty Coventry taking up the Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation ministry.

Other new faces include Obadiah Moyo, the Minister of Health and Child Care; Dr Sekai Nzenza, Public Service, Labour and Social Services; Joel Biggie Matiza, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister, and Industry and Commerce, Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndhlovu.

The president dropped a number of old guard members who were in Mugabe’s cabinet, among them Patrick Chinamasa, Obert Mpofu, Chris Mushohwe and Simon Khaya Moyo.

Ncube, on his appointment as the new treasury chief, said his immediate task was to remove bond notes, which he described as bad money.

“Let the US dollar be the call currency of focus. Domestic debt, through government expenditure, bigger shares going towards production,” he said, adding that job creation was a silver bullet in any economy.

Political analyst Simbiso Chirasha said the appointments placed women in respectable positions.

“However, it is still a far cry from the desired equal gender representation as this could have been easily achieved in cabinet. It is the first time to have a woman who is a minister of defence and Information and Broadcasting Services though the presidium remains devoid of women,” she said.

She said there were a lot of capable women who could have taken up decision-making positions in government and in the ruling party. Mnangagwa appointed six women out of his 20-member cabinet, an increase from four in the previous cabinet. Further, of the nine provincial ministers, five women were appointed. The presidium has remained no place for women.

Another political analyst, Rejoice Ngwenya, said there were still too many ministries, although Mnangagwa had shown a degree of dexterity in achieving the delicate balance between political and delivery demands.

“What is left to be seen is what milestones can be set and delivered and how the cronies can manoeuvre the treacherous Zanu-PF DNA of public expenditure, cronyism and corruption,” he said.

Zimbabweans hoped for a cabinet that would make Zimbabwe work again.

“Our problem is a party and individuals who have the unfortunate and misguided belief that they are entitled to [mis]rule and loot without anyone telling them to stop,” he said.

He said if the new ministers were not independent, the country was doomed to return to the old 2008 era, when inflation was at its highest and shops empty as the economic crisis deepened.

“We need individuals who will tell the president the truth, without fear or favour, even if it hurts and threatens their own jobs,” he said.

However, Member of Parliament for Norton, Temba Mliswa, highlighted the need to investigate the old guard.

“So now that the old guard have been dropped, does it pave the way for investigation? I’m sure it’s a perfect opportunity to clear themselves once and for all, right?” Mliswa said.

Meanwhile the Zanu-PF bigwigs and former ministers who were excluded in the new cabinet appointed by Mnangagwa on Friday have been redeployed to work on a full-time basis at the party’s headquarters in Harare.

Speaking to state-owned daily the Herald after an extraordinary session of the ruling party’s decision-making body, Politburo, held at its headquarters, Zanu-PF secretary for Information and Publicity Simon Khaya Moyo shared the developments.

“As the party rebuilds itself for the future, the Politburo has resolved that Zanu-PF transforms and positions itself in the rapidly changing socio-economic and political environment by ensuring that 11 departments are manned full-time by senior party stalwarts,” Moyo said.

Former Home Affairs Culture and Heritage Minister Obert Mpofu will lead the party’s administration department. Others include Lieutenant General (Retired) Engelbert Rugeje (National Commissariat), Former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa (Finance), Simon Khaya Moyo (Information and Publicity), Paul Mangwana (legal affairs), Christopher Mushohwe (economic Affairs), Douglas Mahiya (War Veterans) and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (External Affairs).

This move is said to emulate the Chinese model and meant to strengthen the ruling party structures. DM