APPOINTING his long-awaited new cabinet this week amid great expectations among Zimbabweans, President Robert Mugabe swung wide open political patronage doors, letting in a legion of predominantly male Zanu PF cronies, while slamming the doors on the faces of his fervent women loyalists.
OWEN GAGARE/HERBERT MOYO
Mugabe’s cabinet, widely described as hugely disappointing in view of demands for a lean, performance-driven team with a healthy mix of young technocrats and experience, has 23 men, some of whom have been there for 33 years and others for at least two decades, and only there women.
Proportionally, the new cabinet is still very huge even if it has 26 ministers compared to the recent coalition government one which had 33 members.
In so far as gender balance is concerned, the new cabinet is only marginally different from Mugabe’s first one at Independence in 1980. Soon after becoming prime minister in 1980, Mugabe announced a 23-mmber cabinet designed to bring together both wings of the Patriotic Front alliance, reassure the white minority and foster unity within his Zanu PF at odds internally.
Mugabe retained the defence portfolio for himself but made two key appointments to reassure whites. David Smith of the all-white Rhodesian Front was named secretary of commerce and industry, and Denis Norman was appointed agriculture minister.
After refusing to be ceremonial president, PF Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo was given home affairs and his party got four posts in cabinet.
However, only one woman, Teurai Ropa Nhongo (now Vice-President Joice Mujuru), was given a full cabinet post, as minister of youth, sport, and recreation. Two other women were named deputy ministers. Now 33 years later there are only three women in cabinet even if the new constitution says there must be gender parity.
In total Mugabe, made 63 executive appointments in the new government, in a move which will further balloon the wage bill and seriously drain government’s limited revenues. This will chew over US$1 billion in cars and other benefits.
Already government’s wage bill gobbles up a staggering 69% of the total revenues. Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product is estimated at about US$7 billion, although officials claim is it US$11 billion.
Scrutinised from all possible dimensions, including size, renewal and ideas, rewarding loyalists, Mugabe’s promise a day before elections, regional and ethnic balance, demotions and promotions, gender and budget, the new team comes across as a regressive, if not a comatose, cabinet largely informed and influenced by patronage — the use of state resources to reward individuals for their political and electoral support – and loyalty considerations rather than meritocracy and delivery.
The sheer size of Mugabe’s cabinet tells the story of a man either failing or unwilling to learn anything from the old adage “cut your coat according to your cloth”.
Mugabe’s chief cabinet secretary Misheck Sibanda may have trumpeted the reduction of the cabinet size from 33 during the tenure of the inclusive government to 26, but this simply fails to capture the fact that the coalition government consisted of three political parties that had to share the spoils after a disputed election.
The new cabinet is still a proportionally big team given that there has been a reduction of only seven ministries from the coalition era.
In fact, all things considered the new executive appointments, including ministers of state, deputy ministers and governors, now simply renamed ministers of state for provincial affairs to circumvent the new constitution, add up to 63.
If Mugabe really wanted to reducing the size of government, he could have eliminated ministers of state, deputy ministers and minister of state for provincial affairs who are essentially the new governors whose positions were scrapped under the new constitution.
He could also have avoided appointing two deputy ministers for Agriculture ministry.
Besides, Mugabe could have consolidated certain ministries such as agriculture and lands, the two education and sports ministries, and media, information and broadcasting services and information communication technology, postal and courier services, among others.
The two Presidential Affairs portfolios headed by Didymus Mutasa (who will be partly in charge of intelligence) and Flora Buka could have been combined or scrapped altogether. Mugabe himself admitted other countries don’t even have a minister for state security.
Zimbabwe’s cabinet is proportionally huge for a country with 13 million people and a GDP of US$11 billion compared to other African countries.
Egypt, for instance, has 84,5 million people and a US$264,7 billion GDP but a 35-member cabinet; Nigeria 170,1 million people and a US$268,7 billion GDP but a 32-member cabinet; Kenya 44,4 million people and a US$41,1 billion GDP but an 18-member cabinet; Zambia 14,3 million people and a US$20,5 billion GDP but a 20-member cabinet and South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, has 52,9 million people and a US$375,9 billion GDP but a 34-member cabinet.
Some re-appointed individuals in the new cabinet have been in government since independence in 1980 and hence have nothing new to offer.
Besides Mugabe himself and Mujuru, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Sydney Sekeramayi, for instance, have been there for 33 years.
Didymus Mutasa (except when he was Speaker of Parliament) has also been around. Other ministers such as Nicholas Goche, Ignatius Chombo and Oppah Muchinguri, among others, have been in office for a very long time.
The so-called “new blood” in cabinet includes Dzikamai Mavhaire (Energy), Mike Bimha (Industry and Commerce), Walter Chidhakwa (Mines) and Douglas Mombeshora (Lands). However, analysts say Mavhaire does not have a traceable record of delivery and thus he doesn’t inspire confidence. So there was no serious renewal of cabinet and resultantly no chance of new ideas.
Mugabe himself admitted that his appointments were mainly about rewarding party loyalists and those who delivered during elections, besides education.
Mugabe summed it up when he said the key criteria is: “Are you Zanu PF? And if you are Zanu PF, how much of Zanu PF are you? How long have you been with us?”
Some ministers were rewarded for working hard to ensure a Zanu PF victory. Simon Khaya Moyo, who delivered Matabeleland South province during the elections, is poised to land the vice-presidency and his elevation to senior minister is the clearest indication of that yet.
He would also be rewarded for his role as the Zanu PF’s national elections directorate during the polls.
Those from provinces which Zanu PF wrested from MDC-T such as Masvingo and Manicaland, besides Matabeleland South and others, were also rewarded.
Mavhaire captured the point when he said: “The fact that we got 26 out of 26 seats is a good testimony to say we tried our best. It is the people of Masvingo who demonstrated and corrected their mistakes. I am happy His Excellency the president recognised the effort we put and rewarded us.”
So Mugabe spread his appointments across all provinces to reward loyalists and those who delivered during elections. Although he said education was a key consideration, he did not mentioned meritocracy as one of the benchmarks.
For a long time, Mugabe has always loved the politics of the patron and his clients. His government has always used state resources to reward individuals for their political and electoral support — in other words exercised patronage.
While most cabinet ministers, except a few who have relatively good records like Walter Mzembi, the majority are creatures of patronage.
Instead of using the five appointments allowed by the new constitution outside parliament, Mugabe created jobs for the boys and swung the patronage doors open for Jonathan Moyo (information), Joseph Made (Agriculture), Lazarus Dokora (Lower Education), Martin Dinha (Mashonaland Central provincial minister) and Faber Chidarikire (Mashonaland West provincial minister).
Even if he lost, Moyo was also apparently rewarded for his work hard, including writing the Zanu PF election manifesto.
A day before the July 31 general elections, Mugabe told journalists at State House in Harare that he would not appoint losers. This was a repeat of his remarks in June at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development where he said those who lose elections would not be hired in government.
However, he dramatically backtracked on his promises and appointed cronies like Made, Moyo, Dokora, Dinha and Chidarikire.
One of the most enduring features of Zanu PF politics is factionalism. It appears Mujuru has managed to use her position and influence to ensure her faction gets the largest share of cabinet posts with those linked to the Mnangagwa camp picking up crumbs.
Those reportedly aligned to the Mujuru camp include Khaya Moyo (Senior minister), Sekeramayi (Defence), David Parirenyatwa (Health), Mavhaire (Energy), Bimha (Industry), Muchena (Higher Education), Mzembi (Tourism), Chidhakwa (Mines), Dokora (Lower Education), Goche (Labour), Webster Shamu (ICT), Mombeshora (Lands), and ministers of state Mutasa, Buka and Sylvester Nguni, among others.
Saviour Kasukuwere, who was said to be in the Mujuru faction for a long time but has reportedly fallen out of favour with her after clashes in Mashonaland Central and over the indigenisation programme, was demoted from Indigenisation to Water, environment and climate portfolio.
For the Mnangagwa camp, only the faction leader himself and Patrick Chinamasa (Finance) got significant ministries. Besides a few other posts which went to the Mnangagwa faction, some went to neutrals like Moyo and Made now.
Although the Unity Accord of 1987 between Zanu PF and PF Zapu is fading away with time, there are still traces of adherence to it as shown by Khaya Moyo, Kembo Mohadi and Sithembiso Nyoni appointments. Mugabe also said he tried to ensure regional and ethnic balance by appointing about three ministers per province, resulting in some people with questionable credentials like Josiah Hungwe coming back.
“We also ensured that all provinces are represented as much as possible. We took two to three or more from each province,” Mugabe said on Wednesday.
While some ministers like Chombo, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs), Nyoni (Small to Medium Enterprises), Made and Mutasa retained their portfolios, others like Obert Mpofu (Transport), Goche and Kasukuwere were demoted. Even Mnangagwa was demoted, although he reportedly declined appointment to finance.
Others like Chinamasa, Mavhaire, Chidhakwa, Francis Nhema and Bimha, actually moved up the ladder.
There seemed to have been no attempt to redress gender imbalances with the appointment of only three women to cabinet, as Mugabe claimed “there were just not enough women”. But Mugabe failed to use the provision to appoint five ministers outside parliament to bring in technocrats and women, preferring political cohorts.
As a result of the bloated government, more than US$1 billion will be spent on ministers and senior government officials, who include 26 cabinet ministers and 24 deputies, three ministers of state and 10 ministers of provincial affairs. Ministers usually get between two and three upscale vehicles, among them a Mercedes Benz, Range Rovers, Jeep Cherokees and Land Cruisers Rovers as well as Toyota Prados, and even upmarket houses.
In addition, government provides accommodation and other benefits for senior officials.