FOLLOWING an eventful week in which a shock revolt by MDC-T councillors against imposed mayoral candidates threatened to hustle their party into implosion, former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai played two contrasting cards in his quest to keep the party together.
The first was the combative decision to expel those councillors who defied party directives and voted for Zanu PF mayors, thus further consolidating President Robert Mugabe and his party’s stranglehold on government following their disputed electoral victory which gave them more than two-thirds majority.
The second was the appointment of a 20-member shadow cabinet with the onerous task of “keeping President Robert Mugabe’s government in check and ensure they meet their commitments to the people of Zimbabwe”.
While the two moves were different, they were both meant to re-assure the party that Tsvangirai is still in charge: he can still expel those who are indisciplined, while symbolically rewarding loyal senior officials with appointments into a shadow cabinet.
One definition refers to a shadow cabinet as “a group of senior members of the political party that is out of power and these members would probably assume corresponding positions as ministers in the cabinet if their party is elected”.
Their role is to act as watchdogs on their corresponding counterparts to ensure transparency and accountability in public administration, as well as delivery.
Tsvangirai’s shadow cabinet consists of Gorden Moyo (International Relations and Co-operation), Thamsanqa Mahlangu (Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources), Tendai Biti (Finance and Economic Development), Gift Chimanikire (Defence), Ruth Labode (Health and Child Welfare), Concilia Chinanzvavana (Basic Education), Peter Mataruse (Higher Education, Science and Technology), Sesel Zvidzai (Local Government), Elias Mudzuri (Transport), Nelson Chamisa (Communications) and Abednico Bhebhe (Mines and Minerals Development).
The other shadow appointees are Morgan Komichi (Energy and Power Development), Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (Agriculture, Land and Water Development), Jesse Manjome (Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs), Lilian Timveos (Home Affairs), Tapiwa Mashakada (Industry and Commerce), Paurina Mpariwa (Labour, Employment and Social Security), Lucia Matibenga (Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development), Solomon Madzore (Youth, Sport, Arts and Culture) and Joel Gabbuza (Public Works and National Housing).
Questions are being raised, first, regarding the move to expel the rebellious councillors when in fact the problem lies in the mismanagement of the issue of mayors by Tsvangirai and his top lieutenants. The second is the calibre of Tsvangirai’s shadow ministers.
While Biti has proved he is a performer and others like Moyo, Mudzuri, Mashakada, Mataruse, Labode, Gabbuza, Chamisa and Bhebhe might have potential, analysts say most of Tsvangirai’s appointees have no proven records of delivery and are not even promising.
There are queries over the appointments of people like Mahlangu, Chimanikire, Chinanzvavana, Komichi, Timveos, Mpariwa and Madzore, among others, to the shadow cabinet which might graduate into a real government chief policy-making body if the MDC-T wins in 2018.
“If you are going to come up with a shadow cabinet, you need people who are ministerial material, but with the MDC-T, some of the characters are so clueless that you wonder what Tsvangirai thinks they will achieve,” said political analyst Godwin Phiri.
“How can you assign a person like Mahlangu to the tourism, environment and natural resources portfolio?”Another analyst said Mahlangu, Chimanikire, Chinanzvavana, Komichi, Timveos, Mpariwa and Madzore are “simply not cabinet material and this is what makes people doubt Tsvangirai and the MDC-T’s fitness to govern”.
Besides the issue of the quality of the appointees, analysts are questioning the effectiveness of the shadow ministers in a country like Zimbabwe — which does not have a deep-rooted tradition of the system synonymous with the United Kingdom.
The shadow cabinet is a feature of the Westminster system of government. Tsvangirai’s shadow ministers are not convincing, analysts say.
Mahlangu was initially part of the Government of National Unity (GNU)’s cast of ministers where he deputised Zanu PF’s Saviour Kasukuwere at indigenisation.However, he was dropped by Tsvangirai in a reshuffle following cellphone theft scandal, in a move that also claimed the scalp of Mudzuri, former Harare mayor.
Mpariwa is another questionable appointee after she was returned to labour where she failed to act on high levels of corruption at the National Social Security Authority during her tenure as a minister in the GNU.
This was despite commissioning a high-level investigation by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) whose damning findings were released in April 2010.
Chimanikire’s appointment to shadow defence is equally problematic and analysts wonder what he will tell the likes of Sydney Sekeramayi and the battle-hardened defence chiefs who are likely to ignore anyone without “liberation war credentials”.
Giles Mutsekwa, who was left out after his defeat in elections, was at least able to engage them even though he had the baggage of being a former Rhodesian soldier.
His service in the Zimbabwe National Army gave him the leverage.
However, analyst Dumisani Nkomo said while some of Tsvangirai’s appointments were dubious, the MDC-T has some capable individuals, citing the examples of Biti, Labode, Moyo and Mudzuri.
Nkomo said despite Zanu PF’s attitude, the shadow cabinet could still be effective because unlike in the GNU, “all they have to do is to make informed noise and expose the shortcomings of Zanu PF policies while publicising their own before the next elections”.
“They don’t have to deliver anything, but to oppose in an informed way. In fact, their record shows they are good at opposing rather than ruling,” said Nkomo, adding “the shadow cabinet only needs to come up with a clear programme of policy alternatives instead of simply waiting to react to Zanu PF’s agenda”.