New cabinet must focus on economy

HOW does President Robert Mugabe choose who is fit to lead a ministry? For 33 years Mugabe has constantly used personal loyalty and patronage to assemble his cabinet, leaving Zimbabweans to bear the brunt of mismanagement, corruption, waste and embezzlement of public funds, economic failure and poverty.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

The people he has continued to appoint have left the economy in tatters and stalled investment in the country’s rich natural resources, which include, gold, platinum and lately diamonds, among others.

Although his successive governments have limped along with corruption-tainted and incompetent figures for three decades, the team Mugabe assembles for his final term in office must consist of highly competent figures key to the country’s economic recovery agenda to create employment and alleviate poverty.

If Mugabe wants to depart from the failed path he has been travelling for years, mainly with regards to democratic fundamentals, the economy and international relations, as he indicated at his inauguration, then he must place a premium on the criteria of competence, integrity and commitment to people he appoints to his cabinet.

Zimbabwe has been seriously damaged by cabinet appointments largely based on political considerations. The appointments should be about enhancing the performance and effectiveness of government rather than making statements about who is loyal and who is not.

It has been unhelpful that competence and the capacity to deliver were sacrificed on the altar of patronage and cronyism in Mugabe’s previous cabinet appointments.

If Mugabe is to form a “war cabinet”, it must only be for leading the fight to secure investment, ensure economic recovery, counter rampant corruption and combat poverty.

To achieve this he needs to ditch his “tit-for-tat” rhetoric directed at the Western governments and investors as it is counterproductive; he will most certainly not win the battle that way.

His ability to resuscitate the economy will largely depend on the calibre of ministers he will appoint, particularly in the key portfolios of finance, mines, energy, industry, transport, science and technology, and indigenisation.

Since Mugabe is desperate to restore legitimacy and revamp his battered image, Zimbabweans want him to make progressive appointments reflecting a leaner, younger, and pragmatic cabinet, instead of settling for the same deadwood and corrupt cronies whose rigid ideologies and populist rhetoric add no value to how the country and economy are run.

His new cabinet must instil confidence among the people and maintain the gains the economy made during the coalition government.

As investment advisor Kevin Msipha put it, performance of the economy will define Mugabe’s legacy. “Unfortunately, with the economy, he cannot be as hard as or as difficult as he has been with other issues. The challenge with the economy is with policy uncertainty and a lack of confidence. This he can fix by appointing a finance minister who appeals to local business and the international community.”

Let’s see what sort of cabinet Mugabe will appoint next week but the point is his new team must focus on the economy.