WHEN the euphoria of his inauguration among his supporters dies down, President Robert Mugabe will have to grapple with the predicament of appointing a new cabinet in which he not only needs to delicately balance regional and ethnic diversity, but also has to deal with the factional issues within his deeply divided Zanu PF, while taking into account experience and renewal.
With many former ministers, outgoing ones who were in the coalition government and a new generation of MPs to select from, Mugabe certainly is in a quandary over who to appoint or drop, given competing interests and an array of issues he has to deal with to come up with a team which has to measure up to public expectations on social service delivery and economic recovery.
Close to 30 former cabinet ministers and over 15 former deputy ministers won National Assembly and Senate elections and would largely be eyeing ministerial posts as this forms part of their personal survival given their lack of means and professional alternatives.
Out of the 20 Zanu PF ministers in the previous unity government, only former Agriculture minister Joseph Made lost elections after falling in the party’s primaries.
Zanu PF insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent this week Mugabe is in a dilemma over who to drop among those who were part of the unity government to accommodate other former ministers who served him in the past and the young turks who are expecting positions in the new government after campaigning vigorously for his re-election.
Mugabe also has to accommodate technocrats, who economists hope he will appoint among the five permissible outside parliament, to head key ministries like finance, industry and commerce as well as agriculture.
“The president will have a headache over who to appoint from his former ministers who won the elections and have been lobbying for selection in the past weeks. The problem is to balance the old guard and the young turks to form a dynamic and pragmatic cabinet,” said a top party official.
“He has his loyalists who have delivered victory for him, who obviously expect to be rewarded, while at the same time he wants to exit with a bang by appointing a young and dynamic team that will extricate the country from the current abyss.”
Another official added: “This puts him in a quandary. Obviously, he does not want to disappoint his party loyalists, but at the same he knows he is under pressure to deliver and exit with a bang.”
To make matters worse for Mugabe, if speculation of plans to appoint MDC formations officials as ministers to form a new unity government succeeds, he would have to eject even more Zanu PF cabinet hopefuls.
Newly-elected outspoken Hurungwe West MP Temba Mliswa said: “They (old guard) were more concerned about their own businesses and forgot about the people. That is why we joined politics to improve what is there and provide leadership, and as result Zanu PF now has more than two-thirds majority and we will also do the same in the next elections.”
Analysts say Mugabe, who is desperate to restore legitimacy and credibility as an effective and efficient leader, needs to appoint a lean cabinet of about 20 ministers, as opposed to 42 (including ministers of state) in the previous cabinet, which is vibrant, dynamic and market-oriented to move the country forward and secure his legacy going into the sunset of his long political career spanning over 50 years.
A Zanu PF politburo member said: “The fact that people expect a lean government, in which he does away with some ministries created to accommodate loyalists in the unity government by the three political parties, puts him under even more pressure like what happened in 2009.”
In February 2009, the swearing-in ceremony of cabinet ministers into the inclusive government was delayed by about four hours after Mugabe attempted to increase the number of ministers from his Zanu PF in order to accommodate excluded party loyalists.
A cabinet list released on the eve of the swearing-in contained 22 names, instead of the 15 agreed to under the Global Political Agreement.
Eventually, Mugabe dropped former Health minister David Parirenyatwa, former Anti-Corruption minister Paul Mangwana, former Agriculture deputy minister Sylvester Nguni, the late vice-president John Nkomo, who at that time was the party chairperson, and former minister of state Flora Bhuka. However, Nkomo, Bhuka and Nguni were later appointed ministers of state.
The five had participated in rehearsals for the event, only to be left out on the day. Mangwana stood visibly upset with his wife in the State House car park while the event was taking place.
Parirenyatwa left in a fit of rage.
Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere had initially been left out until the day before. He was reportedly only accommodated after profusely pleading with Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
While some ministers were left frustrated, some openly showed their gratitude after being accommodated. Information minister Webster Shamu even knelt before First Lady Grace Mugabe to demonstrate his gratitude in a move which showed Mugabe’s wife plays a role in cabinet appointments.
A senior party official said: “The problem is that people want to hold on to ministerial posts because it has become their source of livelihood. So when they are dumped, they leave with nothing and struggle to make ends meet. That is why they are jostling to be in cabinet or want to remain there forever.”
Former Transport minister Enos Chikowore committed suicide in April 2005 after he was left out of cabinet.
One official suggested Mugabe must park the old guard in the politburo and appoint young performance-driven individuals in cabinet.