ZIMBABWEAN voters rejected President Robert Mugabeâ€™s trusted ministers in last Saturdayâ€™s polls because of the overdue stay of their octogenarian leader and as a protest against the economyâ€™s free fall, political analysts have said.
Most of the defeated ministers lost in rural constituencies where Zanu PF has been dominant since Independence in 1980.
Former Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Water Resources minister Munacho Mutezo and Mines minister Amos Midzi were among the rollcall of Mugabeâ€™s appointees who lost during the legislative poll on March 29.
The three ministers were in parliament after being appointed non-constituency legislators by Mugabe in 2005.
Other ministers â€“ Michael Nyambuya (Energy), Oppah Muchinguri (Gender), Joseph Made (Agricultural Mechanisation), Christopher Mushowe (Transport) and Chen Chimutengwende (Interactive Affairs) â€” failed to retain their seats after losing to the MDC-Tsvangirai faction.
In the last government, Vice-president Joseph Msika and eight ministers were in cabinet by virtue of Mugabeâ€™s patronage.
Msika, Chinamasa, Rural Housing minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Midzi, Mutezo, Information minister Ndlovu, Small Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni, Indigenisation minister Paul Mangwana and former Foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi were in parliament courtesy of their appointment as non-constituency MPs by Mugabe.
Political analysts said the fall of the former ministers in last Saturdayâ€™s elections was a decisive rejection of Mugabeâ€™s government by the electorate for its failure to pursue workable development policies which has resulted in the majority of Zimbabweans wallowing in poverty.
Zimbabweâ€™s flagging economy is characterised by high inflation, high interest rates, critical shortages of foreign currency, an over 80% unemployment rate and spiralling prices of basic commodities and services.
Inflation is above 100 580% â€” the highest in the world exceeding even rates for countries in war situations. The analysts further argued that some of the former ministers were rejected because of their dismal performance as cabinet members and legislators, especially those who had rural seats but failed to live up to their promises.
Others said the defeat of the ministers had nothing to do with execution of duty but represented a downright rejection of Mugabe and the ruling Zanu PF by an electorate battling to eke out a living in a harsh economic environment.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said the cabinet ministers lost the elections because of poor governance by Mugabe and the ruling party.
â€œThey were defeated because of poor performance by the government,â€ Masunungure said.
â€œThe electorate saw the ministers as the personification of the government and decided to punish them to atone for their suffering.â€
He said the economic malaise in the country also contributed to the defeat of not only ministers but also other Zanu PF candidates in the rural areas, now the former stronghold of the revolutionary Zanu PF.
â€œIn our study we found that â€˜operation reduce pricesâ€™ the government embarked on last year emptied shops resulting in the suffering of villagers. The defeat of Zanu PF candidates is a result of the rural protest at the operations,â€ Masunungure explained.
He added that there was now convergence of political opinion in urban and rural areas that culminated in the MDC making inroads in the latter areas.
â€œThe ground has softened in the rural areas and the MDC-Tsvangirai messages have been received well. It is the state of the economy that has seen the MDC now having one leg in urban areas and the other in rural areas,â€ Masunungure said.
Another political commentator Michael Mhike said the loss of the ministers represented a â€œtotalâ€ rejection of Mugabe.Â
â€œThe defeat of cabinet ministers is a rejection of the current government which the electorate blames for precipitating the fall of the country,â€ Mhike said.
Â â€œIt is clear from the results that even in rural constituencies where Mugabe used to enjoy great support the electorate rejected him and his party.â€
Mhike argued that the outcome of the elections had nothing to do with how the former ministers executed their duties in government or in their constituencies.
â€œThe majority of people in the country are blaming Mugabe and Zanu PF for all the ills in the country and this explains why even in some perceived ruling party strongholds the party lost the elections,â€ he said.
â€œThis is a protest vote against Mugabe, it is not about individual candidatesâ€™ performance in government or at constituency level.â€
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe said the defeat of the ministers â€” especially those who were contesting in rural constituencies â€” was an indication that the 84-year-oldâ€™s reign had come to an end.
â€œThe dictatorship is coming to an end,â€ said Makumbe.
â€œMugabe and Zanu PF have been synonymous with the rural areas and the dictator used to get his cabinet members from rural constituencies, but this time around things have changed. The rural areas have rejected Mugabe and the ruling party. The dictator is going.â€
Makumbe said poor policies by Mugabe resulted in the electorate dumping Zanu PF and its leaders.
â€œThe loss by the ex-ministers you referred to and other Zanu PF candidates should be attributed to Mugabeâ€™s poor policies and bad governance that have ruined our economy. The major loser here is Mugabe,â€ he added.
By Constantine Chimakure