THE formation of the inclusive government last week is an intriguing experiment in a consociational (power-sharing) arrangement.
The main political parties are trying to transform their shared hatreds into mutual camaraderie to rebuild a nation ruined by leadership and policy failures.
The public expectations are very high that the deal could work.
It is expected the parties would define and pursue a common vision of restoring political and economic stability.
The problems facing the country are well-known.
The priorities are also clear.
The new government needs to energetically tackle the immediate problems to restore a tad of normalcy before confronting fundamental issues like structural economic reforms and democratisation of the country via a new constitution and other measures.
To achieve all this, political parties were expected to harness their best brains and human resource skills to assemble a competent team with a strong intellectual base and capacity to deliver.
It was also expected that the new cabinet would be a mixture of talent and experience â€“â€“ driven by compelling qualifications in areas of deployment â€“â€“ to provide serious leadership and direction in the recovery efforts.
Poverty of leadership and poor governance are central in the current crisis buffeting the nation.
Among other things, it was also expected that the parties would insist on the de-politicisation of the civil service and the professional bureaucracy.
While the political agreement defines what ought to be achieved, it does not say how. It is just a skeletal framework.
The experiment in power-sharing got off to a bad start. Any imaginings of a reformist government coming in to steer the country out of the crisis were quickly eclipsed by President Robert Mugabeâ€™s wholesale retention of his entourage of deadwood ministers â€“â€“ whom he described last year as the â€œworst cabinetâ€ ever â€“â€“ to run the affairs of the nation.
Given the dire economic situation and other urgent tasks at hand, it was astonishing for Mugabe to recycle a forest of deadwood ministers who actually presided over the current economic ruin.
Some of Mugabeâ€™s ministers like Emmerson Mnangagwa and Sydney Sekeramayi have been in cabinet for nearly 30 years now.
Quite clearly they have nothing to offer anymore. To make matters, these ministers are not only monuments to failure, but are also associated with gross human rights abuses stretching from the 1980s to the present.
It was cynical in the extreme for Mugabe to recycle Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi in the security ministries where they will continue to wield instruments of coercion, while victims of this regimeâ€™s excesses are still yearning for justice.
Keeping such ministers is as bad as retaining Fifth Brigade commanders in the top echelons of the army.
Mugabe also brought back a host of old and failed ministers to the patronage network whose only qualifications are an enduring spirit of allegiance to him.
What sort of recovery and reforms can ministers like Joseph Made, Didymus Mutasa, Ignatius Chombo, Obert Mpofu, Stan Mudenge and Olivia Muchena bring?
Indeed, how can you ensure economic recovery with the likes of Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru, the co-vice-presidents, still ensconced at the commanding heights?
These are the clearest indicators Mugabe does not have a reform agenda.
The situation was not helped by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s own controversial appointments.
Tsvangiraiâ€™s appointments were also clearly driven by patronage and village politics.
Instead of carefully bringing in a crop of qualified and competent ministers, he just swung the door open to cronies and loyalists.
His team also lacked representative balance among the geographical regions of the country.
In terms of qualifications and technical know-how, how does one explain the glaring absence of Tapiwa Mashakada and Pearson Mungofa?
On the Arthur Mutambara side, was it necessary to accommodate losing candidates, while leaving out elected MPs?
The Mutambara team was selected on the basis of party seniority, not popular mandate and capability.
The new cabinet was not well thought out.
It evidently lacks technocrats and that is a recipe for failure, especially in the absence of economic resources.
There is also a debilitating rivalry developing within the government at such an early stage.
A major battle is looming between the Reserve Bank and the Ministry of Finance.
In the broader context, Mugabe and Tsvangirai are poised for a fierce tug-of-war over control of government.
The agreement created two centres of power, one in Mugabeâ€™s office and the other in Tsvangiraiâ€™s, which might spawn a cutthroat contestation for power.
This leaves the power-sharing deal politically endangered and recovery and reform prospects gloomy. But let us give the new government a chance.
It may not be looking good at present given the debacle over Bennett, but there is at least no going back.
BY DUMISANI MULEYA