President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara have not yet indicated whether they will follow suit, but chances are that they will not for different reasons. Mugabe is well known for keeping deadwood in his cabinet. At the moment he has in his team some ministers he once described as the “worst in history”.
Mutambara simply does not have the leverage to reshuffle anyone in his team lest he gets reshuffled himself!
Tsvangirai’s move, whatever the real underlying reasons behind it, was bold and assertive. It sent positive signals that non-performers would not be tolerated. Whatever the motivation for his reshuffle, Tsvangirai dropped incompetent and lacklustre ministers who have not made any difference since they came into office in February last year.
Of course those axed were not the only ones who were not delivering. There are many other inept MDC-T ministers who managed to retain their positions.
However, the most important lesson to be drawn from Tsvangirai’s move is that ministers who are not delivering should just be removed. Tsvangirai may have claimed he removed and redeployed some ministers to strengthen his party but it’s clear that his decision to fire them was informed by both internal politics and the failure to deliver.
Tsvangirai removed Energy minister Elias Mudzuri and sent him back to the party. Mudzuri was accompanied by former Housing minister Fidelis Mhashu, former Women’s Affairs deputy minister Evelyn Masaiti, and ex-deputy Youth minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu.
In the process he promoted and shifted around Jameson Timba, Tapiwa Mashakada, Gift Chimanikire, Obert Gutu, Tongai Matutu, Elton Mangoma, Theresa Makone, Giles Mutsekwa, Gorden Moyo, Joel Gabuza, Murisi Zvizvai and Jesse Majome.
While Tsvangirai acknowledged that the inclusive government has only scored limited success since last year, there are ministers who have performed dismally. Mudzuri and Mhashu are two of those. Mutsekwa should have been dropped completely. He was a disaster at Home Affairs. From the beginning it was clear Tsvangirai had appointed the wrong person there. It will be interesting to see if Makone can make any difference to the oppressive culture there.
But what is important is that we now have a different way of doing business in government. Those who sleep on their jobs, enjoying the status and trappings of office, including a Mercedes Benz and other privileges, will be removed if they don’t perform. Mugabe and Mutambara must do the same.
Mugabe has entrenched a different political culture in which corrupt and incompetent ministers are protected as long as they are loyal to him. While in the 1980s he was forced on a few occasions to fire lazy and corrupt ministers, over the years he has left them to hibernate in government doing nothing much, except self-aggrandisement via corrupt deals and outright theft.
The current cabinet is scandalously stuffed with ministers whom Mugabe described in 2008 as the “worst in history”. Mugabe does not have a record of firing non-performers, only dismissing those who disagree with him, which is testimony to his intolerance and authoritarian control. The removal of Simba Makoni in 2002 is a case in point.
Makoni was forced out after a policy dispute with Mugabe over devaluation. Mugabe remained with mostly hopeless and bungling ministers who went on to ruin the economy through ill-advised and ignorant economic policies.
His ministers, including those in the “war cabinet” he appointed in 2004, plunged the country into a catastrophic economic meltdown and hyperinflation. The consequences of Zanu PF’s political depredations and economic ravages are still evident and being felt up to today but Mugabe still clings to the same team.
Tsvangirai’s action should be instructive to Mugabe. Corrupt, incompetent and lazy ministers must be fired. Allowing them to remain holed up in government while parasitically feeding on taxpayers’ money only succeeds in damaging his reputation. Ministers like Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sydney Sekeramayi, who have been there for 30 years, and Joseph Made are notorious examples of deadwood which Mugabe must clear as soon as possible.