PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is any day now expected to announce a new cabinet that will have a few surprise inclusions while leaving space for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), it emerged yesterday.
Informed sources said Mugabe would make public his new team after his return from Egypt today. He attended an African Union summit there earlier this week.
The announcement could be made as early as this weekend. The cabinet â€” initially anticipated to have been made known this week â€” is expected to lay a firm basis for a government of national unity between Zanu PF and the MDC.
African leaders endorsed the proposal mooted by South African President Thabo Mbeki at their meeting at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. AU chair Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and AU Commission chairman Jean Ping are expected in Harare soon to pin down the initiative, sources said.
Both Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai have said they want to talk, but differences remain on conditions for dialogue. Mbeki, the Sadc mediator, told AU leaders a deal is in the offing.
The sources said Mugabe is under pressure to retain only a few of his current cabinet and introduce new faces to revamp his policy-making body to create a team to tackle the economic crisis.
There will be a major clear-out of deadwood, it is expected, not just because of the need for renewal but also on account of the number of ministers who lost their seats. Zanu PF ministers who lost their seats in March include Patrick Chinamasa, Samuel Mumbengegwi, Aeneas Chigwedere, Amos Midzi, Mike Nyambuya, Joseph Made, Munacho Mutezo, Chris Mushohwe, Oppah Muchinguri and Rugare Gumbo.
The removal of defeated and failed ministers would also create a space for MDC officials. Mugabe is said to be trying to perform a balancing act to maintain political, regional and ethnic representation.
The looming cabinet announcement is said to have triggered hectic lobbies for the inclusion of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and independent MP Jonathan Moyo, as well as a younger generation of Zanu PF MPs like Walter Mzembi, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwawo, Joel Matiza and Mike Bimha.
Sources said Gono is linked to the Finance ministry although the problem is that he has a contract which runs until November. The sources close to him said he is planning to go into private business afterwards.
Gono has been accused of running the Finance ministry via the backdoor of quasi-fiscal activities since he arrived at the RBZ in 2003.
He has also been accused of funding government and Zanu PF electoral activities. There has been concern that he has provided money to the ministries of Defence, Home Affairs and State Security whose agencies have been blamed for political violence during recent election campaigns.
He has however defended himself, saying ministry budgets are approved by parliament and it was up to them to decide how to spend their money.
Gono has also provided money on orders from relevant ministers.
If Gono is left out, it is said Mugabe could bring back Herbert Murerwa or retain Samuel Mumbengegwi.
The sources said Mugabe has headaches on who to appoint at Information after Sikhanyiso Ndlovuâ€™s dismal performance in the job. This has led to growing calls from a strong Zanu PF lobby for Moyoâ€™s return.
However, Moyo has been reluctant to go back.
Mugabe is said to be looking for potential replacements in Chinamasa, Chris Mutsvangwa and Webster Shamu, who sat in his media team during the run-off, and his spokesman George Charamba.
Deputy Information minister Bright Matonga has also been considered, the sources said.
If Chinamasa goes to Information, it is said, Emmerson Mnangagwa â€” who was Mugabeâ€™s chief election agent and the Zanu PF legal affairs secretary â€” could go to the Justice ministry he once headed. Mugabe is said to be interested in reassigning Mnangagwa, the former parliamentary speaker, as Leader of the House, while Chinamasa becomes President of the Senate by appointment. This will be subject to talks with the MDC. A deal would lead to a sharing of powerful ministries. Key ministries, including economic ones, could be consolidated to ensure coordination, influence and efficiency, it was said.
Economic ministries such as Industry and International Trade are likely to get new bosses. Obert Mpofu is said to be facing the chop which could open the way a new face like Sylvester Nguni. Mpofu could be reassigned to Science and Technology, while Sithembiso Nyoni would remain at Small & Medium Enterprises Development.
President of the Council of Chiefs Fortune Charumbira is thought to be a candidate for Local Government to replace Ignatius Chombo whose record is seen as little short of appalling. Recent clashes between Chombo and Gono over buses distributed during campaigns has also left the minister out of favour with Mugabe. It is understood he could be moved to a less powerful portfolio, probably Labour.
Current Labour minister Nicholas Goche could be heading back to State Security, although Didymus Mutasa still has a chance to hang on there.
Sources said if Mutasa is removed he would only remain at Land Reform and Resettlement. Joseph Made, Mugabeâ€™s farm manager, might bounce back at Agriculture, although he is unpopular with colleagues in that area.
Sources said a woman could take over Foreign Affairs. Oppah Muchinguri and Olivia Muchena are on Mugabeâ€™s radar. Current minister Simbarashe could be reassigned. Sydney Sekeramayi could be retained at Defence or reassigned to Mines. David Parirenyatwa is likely to remain at Health, while Ambrose Mutinhiri could replace Mushowe at Transport. Kembo Mohadi is likely to remain at Home Affairs.
Some of the ministries like Energy, Infrastructure, Water, Special Affairs, Anti-Corruption, Environment and Tourism, Education, Women Affairs, Youth Development and Employment Creation and Mechanisation could go the MDC, sources said.Â Â Â Â Â
Mugabeâ€™s cabinet would have a difficult task to introduce new policies, reforms and resuscitate the economy, especially if the United Nations ends up imposing comprehensive sanctions against the country.
By Dumisani Muleya