NEWLY-appointed Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly turned down an offer from President Robert Mugabe to be Finance minister, saying the job needed someone younger and more energetic to tackle the numerous economic challenges buffeting the country.
Highly-placed official sources say Mugabe, who agonised for over a month to appoint his new team, initially offered the Finance portfolio to Mnangagwa (officially 67 although some claim he is older than that), but the former Defence minister declined, suggesting his close ally, Patrick Chinamasa takes over. Mugabe is said to have wanted to retain Chinamasa at the Justice ministry.
However, sources say Mnangagwa suggested Chinamasa for Finance as he still has the vigour and dynamism to take up the challenging post at a time when there are high expectations government would turn around the economy now mired in deceleration after impressive recovery and growth figures since 2009.
“Mnangagwa, who has previously served in the Justice portfolio, is also no stranger to the Finance ministry having served there albeit for 15 months from 1995 to 1996,” said one Zanu PF source. “So that’s why Mugabe wanted to appoint him new Finance minister. However, because of his experiences at the ministry, Mnangagwa is under no illusions about challenges anyone who goes there will face.”
In the past weeks, Mnangagwa’s name was one of those touted as candidates for the post alongside Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority boss Gershem Pasi and chairperson of Starafrica Corporation and former Delta CEO Joe Mtizwa, before Chinamasa’s name came up.
In addition to holding various government portfolios, Mnangagwa has handled party finances — at one stage managing Zanu PF’s collapsed business empire. He is also involved in business as an individual.
Sources say getting Finance proved to be a major gain for the Mnangagwa faction which was crowded out by the Mujuru camp in the cabinet appointments.
“He (Chinamasa) proved himself to be a hardworking minister during the Global Political Agreement negotiations and the consequent inclusive government (with the two MDC parties from 2009 to June this year) where he fought hard in Mugabe’s corner and as a result it was not difficult for him to be accepted,” said a source.
Gono welcomed Chinamasa’s appointment saying he is “more than equal to the task” of providing strong economic leadership. Chinamasa had a brief stint as Finance minister from 2008 to 2009 prior to the inclusive government when the multi-currency system was introduced.
However, his critics say he might be an efficient lawyer, but has no strong credentials to head Treasury and has also proved hostile to business through his loud populist rhetoric on land, indigenisation and sanctions.