PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is considering a cabinet reshuffle which government and party insiders say is informed by the need to calm stormy relations within the party as well as read the riot act to warring factions that have taken their factional fights to the public sphere in an unprecedented fashion.
Mugabe, who is said to be under pressure from Zanu PF’s two major factions has to walk a fine line between balancing the interests of the opposing fronts and sending out a clear warning that their public spats which have been played out on social and mainstream media will no longer be tolerated.
The succession fight pits Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his loyalists against a group of young Turks known as Generation 40 (G40). The group, whose most vocal members are Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, reportedly has the support of First Lady Grace Mugabe and Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko.
“His Excellency has to walk the tight rope to achieve and maintain a balance between the competing interests of the two factions with each seeking to have its opponents kicked out,” one government source said, adding that: “The Mnangagwa group wants a number of ministers kicked out but their major target is Jonathan Moyo. The G40 group, on the other hand, wants (War Veterans minister Christopher) Mutsvangwa to get the boot. There is already a G40-induced vote of no confidence on Mutsvangwa by the Mashonaland West executive, so the push is real.”
If Mugabe buckles to pressure, and reshuffles his cabinet or drops some ministers, it will be the third time since he controversially won elections in 2013. In 2014, he reshuffled his cabinet after axing former vice-president Joice Mujuru and her allies over untested allegations of plotting his ouster and assassination.
In his last reshuffle in September last year, Mugabe, under pressure from the Mnangagwa faction moved Moyo from the information ministry to the Higher Education ministry. The Mnangagwa camp felt Moyo was abusing the media to attack and denigrate the vice-president.
“There is also a push from the G40 side that Mugabe drops his spokesperson George Charamba, whom they feel is firmly in support Mnangagwa. That is the reason why Sarah Mahoka (Women’s League secretary for finance) openly asked the president to confirm whether Charamba was speaking on his behalf when he attacked senior government officials for allegedly fighting Mnangagwa,” said the official.
Charamba however denied Mugabe is contemplating a reshuffle, saying “there will be no cabinet reshuffle”.