Cabinet Choices Widen Rifts in Zanu PF, MDCs

SERIOUS divisions have rocked the three political parties in the unity government after their principals appointed cabinet ministers based on cronyism and loyalty to the leaders.

So serious are the rifts in Zanu PF and the two MDC formations that stability in the parties is under threat.

Impeccable sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that the appointment of 41 ministers and 20 deputies in the past two weeks by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, exposed to the public glare the power struggles going on in Zanu PF and the two MDC formations.

The sources said the divisions were wide in the Tsvangirai-led MDC-T where the party leader was accused of favouritism, cronyism and tribalism in selecting his ministers.

After the MDC-T national council met on January 30 and agreed to join the power-sharing government, the sources said, Tsvangirai called the members of his party he had picked to serve as ministers to his Strathaven home in Harare.

Among those invited, the sources said, was deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada, but the economist was later excluded from Tsvangirai’s line up.

“He (Mashakada) was originally on Tsvangirai’s list but the president was influenced to drop him by the ‘kitchen cabinet’,” one of the sources said, a reference to Tsvangirai’s coterie of advisors.

“When the party’s standing committee went for a retreat at Pamuzinda Lodge between February 6 and 8, Eddie Cross told Mashakada that he would not be in cabinet.”

Cross is the MDC-T policy coordinator and a close associate of Tsvangirai. The sources said Cross told Mashakada that Tsvangirai wanted to appoint him as a consultant in the National Security Council on a three-year contract bankrolled by the World Bank to reform state security organs.

On February 10, Tsvangirai held a meeting with his standing committee at Harvest House and the party’s spokesperson Nelson Chamisa challenged him to disclose his cabinet list, but he flatly refused, the sources said. Chamisa did not get the backing of other members of the committee to pursue the matter.

The same day Tsvangirai convened a meeting of the national executive and told them that he had selected his ministers based on loyalty, gender balance and blending of the youth and the old.

“He announced the cabinet list to the national executive and Mashakada was not on it despite his loyalty to the party being unquestionable,” one of the sources said.

“Maybe Tsvangirai meant loyalty to himself (not the party),” the source said. “Moreover, the list lacked equity and national outlook in that Matabeleland was marginalised.”

The sources said it was apparent that Mashakada was excluded from the list because of the clash between him and Tsvangirai over the “unconstitutional” removal of Lucia Matibenga as chairperson of the women’s assembly. She was replaced by Teresa Makone last year.

“Mashakada demanded that due process should have been followed in dealing with the Matibenga case because she was elected at congress, but Tsvangirai wanted her out in favour of Makone –– a family friend.”

Mashakada fought side by side with Tsvangirai to convince the national council to agree to join the unity government, while secretary-general Tendai Biti and other “hardliners” were reportedly against the move.

The sources said soon after the national executive meeting and press conference called by Tsvangirai ended, MPs from Bulawayo besieged the party leader’s home and told him that his cabinet list lacked balance.

Tsvangirai, the sources added, was told that the legislators were prepared to quit the MDC-T because he had shown “shocking tribalism” in the way he picked his ministers.

“The MPs demanded that for them to remain in the party, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo should be appointed a cabinet minister. They also said he should drop (Abedinico) Bhebhe of the Mutambara formation whom he had appointed Water Resources minister and replace him with (Binga lawmaker) Joel Gabbuza,” a member of the MDC-T national council.

The sources said Tsvangirai had to capitulate to the demands and replaced Bhebhe with Nkomo as Minister of Water Resources while Gabbuza came in as Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals instead of Cross.

The Bulawayo MPs also forced Tsvangirai to appoint national youth chairperson Thamsanga Mahlangu as deputy Youth minister.

The sources said MDC-T senior members in the three Mashonaland provinces were also bitter that Tsvangirai did not select anyone from the provinces for his cabinet despite winning seats in traditional Zanu PF strongholds.

In Zanu PF, insiders said, some party heavyweights were not happy with Mugabe’s decision to retain the old guard at the expense of younger party members.

The majority of the ministers Mugabe retained, the sources said, were linked to the faction led by new Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and this left the camp headed by retired army general Solomon Mujuru sulking.

Mnangagwa was instrumental in Mugabe’s re-election in the one-man runoff on June 27 last year. He allegedly coordinated the campaign that was characterised by violence, which forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the race at the last minute.

Mugabe re-appointed Mnangagwa (Defence), Didymus Mutasa (Presidential Affairs), Sydney Sekeramayi (National Security), Stan Mudenge (Higher Education), Ignatious Chombo (Local Government), Kembo Mohadi (Home Affairs), Nicholas Goche (Transport), Sithembiso Nyoni (SMEs), Joseph Made (Agriculture), Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs), Francis Nhema (Environment) and Patrick Chinamasa (Legal Affairs).

Others are Herbert Murerwa (Lands), Obert Mpofu (Mines), Webster Shamu (Information) and Walter Mzembi (Tourism).

 “The majority of the ministers belong to the Mnangagwa faction,” one of the sources said. “The Mujuru faction is bitter about these appointments, which they see as a way to weaken them.”

The sources said Mugabe, after realising that he had dropped some senior members of Mujuru’s faction from his cabinet list, tried and failed to convince former Health minister David Parirenyatwa and ex-Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Paul Mangwana to become deputy ministers.

“Mugabe asked Vice-President (Joice) Mujuru to persuade Parirenyatwa and Mangwana to come into the new government as deputy ministers, but they declined after they were advised not to take up the posts by their camp,” a senior Zanu PF member said.

In the Mutambara-led MDC, elected MPs in the party are bitter that they were ignored in the selection of ministers.

Mutambara nominated his deputy Gibson Sibanda as Minister of State in his office, Welshman Ncube as Minister of Industry and Commerce, David Coltart as Minister of Education, and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga as Minister of Regional and International Integration.

The only other elected lawmaker, Moses Mzila Ndlovu, was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Bhebhe last week told the Independent that Mutambara’s leadership was undemocratic after it blocked his appointment by Tsvangirai and also nominated ministers who were not elected MPs.

“This decision shows that the Mutambara leadership is not democratic, it is a leadership that lost elections and came back through the back door on the strength of the 16 MPs who won elections on March 29 2008,” Bhebhe said.

“I feel great that they have been exposed for what they are through this incident.”

Sources in the party said the faction intended to expel Bhebhe from the party because of his outburst.

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE