IN a bid to breakaway from cabinet being dominated by incumbents’ corrupt and incompetent political allies, Kenya has adopted a new system of appointing ministers in its constitution, something Zimbabwe may need to embrace given its comatose new cabinet.
BRIAN CHITEMBA/HAZEL NDEBELE
After winning elections, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed a leaner 18-member cabinet comprising technocrats despite a constitutional provision that allows a maximum of 22 ministers.
Kenyatta’s choice of ministers was then vetted by the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments which first collected views from the public on the calibre of the cabinet nominees, giving people a chance to speak on the appointment of high-ranking public officials.
The new cabinet appointment criteria in Kenya is meant to ensure good governance and drive economic growth, according to Kenyatta.
Announcing his new cabinet, Kenyatta said: “We are giving Kenyans the best brains that will enable us to deliver our Jubilee manifesto and uplift the wellbeing of the nation.”
Political science professor Eldred Masunungure says it is critical for Zimbabwe to shift from Mugabe’s unilateral cabinet appointments to public consultations similar to the Kenyan ones to promote accountability and transparency in the government.
He says Zimbabwe has a good governance deficit partly because the constitution allows the president to solely appoint cabinet members.
“In our case, the proposal for parliament to vet cabinet members was not included in the constitution although it is a very essential component of good governance,” said Masunungure, adding “The new cabinet is a mixed bag of old guards, we are not sure if they will be able to bring any new policies as an old dog cannot learn new tricks, however let’s wait and see.”
Mugabe appointed his ministers on Tuesday and they were sworn in on Wednesday but there should be no great expectations among Zimbabweans given that the new cabinet is dominated by the same old and inept faces.
While business said the appointment of the new cabinet had ended uncertainty, the calibre of ministers casts doubt over their competence and capacity to deliver.
Women organisations spoke strongly against gender imbalance in the cabinet where only three out of 26 ministers are members of cabinet.
The new cabinet has a striking resemblance of the 2002 war cabinet both in composition and in outlook, and thus expecting change from Zanu PF is akin to going to a water well and expecting to draw oil, according to Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition chief McDonald Lewanika.
Lewanika warned that people should not expect cabinet to serve the interests of the people because the ministers were likely to be just mere “yes men” given the sentiments by newly appointed Information minister Jonathan Moyo that: “I am coming in to do any assignment given to me by my boss. I am coming in as Team Zanu PF, and Team Zanu PF has a captain”.
Lewanika said: “Moyo and his colleagues are in service of Zanu PF not Zimbabwe. They are coming in to serve their leader, not the people.”
Academic Mugove Munatsi said the cabinet comprised “recycled deadwood” from Zanu PF’s old guard which proves beyond doubt that under Mugabe, the party is “not capable of reform”.
The MDC-T said most Zimbabweans expected Mugabe to infuse new blood into cabinet and is disheartened to see the same tired Zanu PF faces being shifted from one portfolio to another.
“This reshuffling of old and tired horses demonstrates not only the lack of vision by Mugabe and his team, but the fact that it will be business as usual under this fraudulently elected Zanu PF government,” the MDC-T said.
“Mugabe’s cluelessness is aptly demonstrated by the creation of some portfolios that are unheard of in the field of public administration. For instance, what on earth does a ‘Minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education’ do?”
However, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Charles Msipa said his organisation was pleased that the country now has a cabinet as it is a positive step for the economy.
He said Mike Bimha is a suitable Industry and Commerce minister as he is not a stranger to the sector since he was the deputy minister in the inclusive government since 2009.
“We have a very close working relationship with Bimha, therefore we look forward to getting policy direction and guidance, especially to revive the manufacturing sector. Industry is in a state of crisis, for instance capacity utilisation is very low,” he said.
National co-ordinator of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe Netsai Mushonga said women were unfairly represented in the cabinet.
There are only three women who sit in the cabinet, Olivia Muchena (Higher Education) Oppah Muchinguri (Women’s Affairs) and Sithembiso Nyoni (Small to Medium Enterprises).
“The new cabinet, on gender balance, is not guided by the country’s new constitution, the Sadc protocol which we signed and African Union’s Women’s rights protocol,” Mushonga said.
Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono welcomed the new cabinet but warned: “Out there, people expect results and not excuses.”