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Principals mull cabinet reshuffle

A CABINET reshuffle in the unstable inclusive government is now odds-on as the political principals prepare to shake-up their team which is struggling to deliver economic recovery and services more than a year after it came into office.

This came as Zanu PF ministers yesterday boycotted the Council of Ministers called by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The move could further widen cracks within the government endangered by protracted political infighting. Only one Zanu PF minister, Francis Nhema, who presides over the Environment portfolio, attended the meeting.

Evidence that government was not working in a cohesive and coherent manner mounted yesterday after Zanu PF ministers boycotted the Council of Ministers meeting.

“Zanu PF ministers did not come to the Council of Ministers today (yesterday). There was only Nhema,” one minister said. “Tsvangirai came back from the United States yesterday (Wednesday) to chair the meeting but Zanu PF ministers stayed away.”

Zanu PF ministers often claim the meetings are just a talk shop.

Efforts to check why Zanu PF ministers did not attend were fruitless. Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere said he was in a meeting. A number of his colleagues were not answering their cellphones.

The Council of Ministers, which assesses implementation of cabinet decisions, is attended by the prime minister, who is the chair, deputy prime ministers and ministers. Chief Secretary to the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and a nominee of the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet also attend.

The Prime Minister as chairman of the Council of Ministers determines the times for meetings. Generally, the Council of Ministers meets every alternative Thursday from 9am in the New Munhumutapa boardroom.
The agenda of the meeting is prepared by the Chief Secretary to the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers for approval by the prime minister.

The quorum for the Council of Ministers is half of the total membership.

Attendance at the Council of Ministers meetings which come every fortnight is compulsory, unless a member is outside the country on official business or has been granted permission by the prime minister.

Official sources said President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai were mulling over a cabinet reshuffle after their team failed to meet most of the targets of government’s 100 Day Plan launched by the prime minister.

“I understand that the prime minister recently indicated to the president that it might be time to reshuffle cabinet to improve its effectiveness and government efficiency,” an official source said. “So a cabinet reshuffle might be in the cards. The president and prime minister might want to shift their ministers around for competency and political reasons.”

However, Tsvangirai’s spokesman James Maridadi said he was not aware of that. “I have not heard about that. I will have to ask, call me later,” he said.

Tsvangirai’s permanent secretary Ian Makone, who is close to the prime minister, also said he was not aware of a potential cabinet reshuffle coming. “I have no such information and in any case I’m not the spokesman for the president and prime minister,” he said.

Efforts to get comment from Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba and Secretary to Cabinet and Office of the President Misheck Sibanda were unsuccessful.

However, official sources insisted “a cabinet reshuffle is now a reasonable possibility” given the inclusive government’s missed targets and poor delivery record. Mugabe holds all the cards on the cabinet reshuffle.

Tsvangirai officially launched the 100 Day Plan, approved by cabinet, at the Harare International Conference Centre on May 13 last year. This plan was supposed to run up until August 6 last year.

The plan was designed to give practical effect to the Global Political Agreement, which led to the inclusive government, and the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp).

However, nothing much was achieved on the plan. Government, which has no money to fund its activities, has also been failing to fulfil a whole host of promises it has been making on economic revival and service delivery. 

Mugabe and Tsvangirai were said to be now anxious to reorganise their team to sharpen its blunt delivery skills and deal with increasing tensions within and among ministers from the three political parties. The inclusive government is rocked by divisions between ministers.

Last week, Public Service minister Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro publicly attacked his colleague Tendai Biti. Zanu PF ministers also have their share of internal friction. Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, colleagues in cabinet, are widely known to be uneasy bedfellows in government. 

Cabinet is the supreme organ of the executive whose primary function is to make and approve government policies. It is attended by the president, who is the chair, and attended by vice-presidents, prime minister, who is the deputy chair, deputy prime ministers, ministers, the Attorney-General and Sibanda.  

A nominee of the Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers is allowed to sit in at meetings of cabinet.

The president as chairman determines times of cabinet meetings. Usually cabinet meets every Tuesday from 9am in the cabinet room at Munhumutapa Building.

The business of the cabinet is defined by an agenda, prepared by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet for approval by the president in consultation with the prime minister. The chief secretary circulates to each member a copy of the agenda usually on Fridays preceding the cabinet meetings. The quorum for cabinet meetings is half the total membership.

Dumisani Muleya 




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