Maxwell Sibanda and Fungi Kwaramba 2 December 2017
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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,”
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