Tsvangirai’s Cabinet Appointments Raise Eyebrows

FACTIONALISM and cronyism characterised MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s selection of his cabinet appointees that critics say lacked equity and national outlook.

 


Tsvangirai nominated his ministers on Tuesday to join an inclusive cabinet tomorrow amid murmurs of disgruntlement from various quarters in his party.

The former trade unionist on Wednesday took the oath of office as prime minister alongside his deputies –– Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara –– the leader of the smaller formation of the MDC.

Out of the 14 ministers Tsvangirai nominated, eight hail from Masvingo and Manicaland provinces. The three Matabeleland provinces have two cabinet ministers, Midlands one and the Mashonaland provinces have three.

Five of the ministers, Tendai Biti (Finance), Elton Mangoma (Economic development), Elias Mudzuri (Energy), Nelson Chamisa (Information and Communication Technology) and Theresa Makone (Public Works) came from the 12-member MDC-T national standing committee, which is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the party.

Deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada, deputy organising secretary Morgan Komichi, and national youth secretary Thamsanga Mahlangu were the only members of the standing committee who failed to make it to the cabinet.

The other members of the committee are Tsvangirai, Khupe and House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo.

The exclusion of Mashakada, the fifth high-ranking MDC-T leader, party insiders said, came as a surprise to most party functionaries because the economist was one of its founding members and had worked with Tsvangirai for years in trade unionism.

The sources said Mashakada could have fallen out with Tsvangirai after he opposed the controversial removal of Lucia Matibenga as the leader of the MDC-T women’s assembly and replaced by Makone in 2007.

The ouster of Matibenga nearly led to the second split of the MDC-T, with the majority of the party’s national executive members accusing Tsvangirai of violating the constitution and imposing Makone – a family friend.

Mashakada, the sources added, was also part of hardliners led by Biti who were against the participation of the MDC-T in the inclusive government before outstanding issues of last September’s power-sharing pact were resolved.

Biti, Mashakada and the other hardliners who did not buy the unity government idea, the sources added, were bulldozed by Tsvangirai and his kitchen cabinet during the MDC-T’s national council meeting a fortnight ago to endorse it.

Biti, the sources said, agreed to be part of the cabinet after Tsvangirai said he wanted him to take charge of the powerful Finance ministry.

The MDC-T secretary-general had confided to journalists that he would not join the cabinet and wanted to retain his position in the party to strengthen its structures. Realising that his party would be weakened in cabinet without Biti, the sources said, Tsvangirai at the weekend dispatched a three-member team to the secretary- general to change his mind.

“Tsvangirai dangled the Finance ministry carrot, which Biti accepted,” one of the sources said.

Questions were also raised over the cabinet nomination of Professor Heneri Dzinotyiweyi (Science and Technology Development) and Professor Elfas Mukonoweshuro (Public Service) ahead of some of the party’s founding members.

Dzinotyiweyi, the former president of the Zimbabwe Integrated Programme, contested against Biti for Harare East in 2000 and lost dismally and later joined the MDC-T after its split in October 2005, while Mukonoweshuro was at one stage a member of Tsvangirai’s kitchen cabinet before his election to the post of secretary of international relations.

“Tsvangirai selected some of his ministers based on his closeness to them,” a senior party member said. “People like (Fidelis) Mhashu (National Housing), Mukonoweshuro, Makone, Dzinotyiwei and Mudzuri were very close to him. He is paying them back for their loyalty to him.”

Makone’s husband, Ian, the sources said, was tipped to be the chief secretary to the prime minister. The Makones, the sources said, financially supported the party in times of trouble and Tsvangirai wanted to reward them for that.

Tsvangirai received his sharpest criticism within his party on his cabinet nominations for allegedly sidelining the Matabeleland region.

The prime minister selected only two ministers from the region –– Eddie Cross (State Enterprises and Parastatals) and Abedinico Bhebhe (Water Resources). Bhebhe is from the Mutambara-led MDC and his appointment has caused fissures within his party and the MDC-T. 

Sources in the MDC-T said Tsvangirai had to convene an impromptu meeting on Tuesday after making public his ministers when party leaders from Matabeleland complained over his omission.

The meeting, the sources said, then agreed to appoint Samuel Sipepa Nkomo as deputy Foreign Affairs minister and Thabitha Khumalo to the post of deputy Women, Gender and Community Development –– both legislators from Bulawayo –– to pacify the region.

Reports yesterday were that Tsvangirai was considering appointing Bulawayo Agenda director Gordon Moyo as a Minister of State in his office.

Bulawayo-based political analyst Max Mnkandla said Tsvangirai’s appointments were a betrayal of the people of Matabeleland as more legislators from the region should have been appointed into cabinet.

“The fact that Tsvangirai only appointed Cross and Bhebhe from the region is worrying as it backed the MDC unreservedly since 2000,” Mnkandla said.

He said Tsvangirai needed to review his strategy and the way he engages Matabeleland. However, sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that Nkomo was initially earmarked for the Home Affairs ministry, but was later dropped after consultations among the MDC-T leaders.

“Nkomo was on the list as Home Affairs minister, but there were consultations and it was felt that since he had unresolved business with the Mining Pension Fund matter it was not proper for him to accept the appointment and he accepted the decision,” said the sources.

Speculation was rife that the sidelining of Matabeleland would give impetus to the revival of PF Zapu.

Justifying the cabinet appointments, Tsvangirai said he had selected technocrats to deal urgently with the country’s crisis. He said he nominated Bhebhe in the spirit of inclusiveness.

“Minister Bhebhe has been appointed in the inclusive government,” Tsvangirai said. “We are trying to promote inclusiveness. I do not know about (perceived) crossing the floor but all I know is that he is part of the inclusive government.”

However, sources said, Bhebhe was rewarded by Tsvangirai for persuading his fellow MPs from the Mutambara formation to vote for Lovemore Moyo to be House of Assembly Speaker last August. But Edwin Mushoriwa, spokesperson for the Mutambara formation, said Bhebhe risked having his seat declared vacant and a by-election called to replace him.

“We were taken aback when we heard that Honourable Bhebhe had been nominated among Tsvangirai’s list of nominees for cabinet,” Mushoriwa said. “We do not know the motive behind all this. It defies the spirit of the whole Global Political Agreement signed among the parties.”

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE AND LOUGHTY DUBE