PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, who effectively started work on Wednesday this week when he chaired a cabinet meeting, is mulling a reshuffle that might see Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa losing control of the Ministry of Justice and several ministers shunted around or removed.
Senior government officials told the Independent this week that several ministers could be affected by the reshuffle, which is expected to take place in the first quarter of the year. The reshuffle would be informed by the state of the economy, performance by ministers, factional realignments and succession considerations, among other issues.
Officials said Mugabe was eager to realign the balance of forces within Zanu PF and government so that he reasserts control in the wake of the ever-intensifying succession battles, which are causing conflict and fragmentation ahead of next year’s elections.
Officials say he is also worried about the state of the economy ahead of general elections next year. Poor performance by several cabinet ministers is also said to be of grave concern to Mugabe.
“The biggest casualty might be Mnangagwa, who is likely to lose control of the justice ministry although he will retain the vice-presidency. He will also continue overseeing the ministries under his purview,” a senior government official said. “Former Justice deputy minister Fortune Chasi is being considered as a candidate to take over the ministry.”
Chasi was fired from government in December 2014 for supporting former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s ambitions to succeed Mugabe.
He was a subject of vitriolic attacks by First Lady Grace Mugabe during her “meet-the-people” rallies which set the stage for Mujuru’s ouster and unprecedented purges of her
Chais has however made peace with the First Lady and attended some of her rallies.
Government officials said while there are many factors which spurred Mugabe to contemplate removing Mnangagwa from the Justice ministry, the trigger is the fallout over Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s succession.
Mugabe is reportedly not happy Mnangagwa clandestinely put Chidyausiku on early retirement and appointed Judge President George Chiweshe – his ally and favourite candidate – as acting chief justice without his knowledge.
Mnangagwa also fuelled the crisis yesterday when he challenged the shortlist, which includes Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Justice Rita Makarau and Justice Paddington Garwe, given to Mugabe by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint Chidyausiku’s successor from.
Grace and her faction want Makarau as the next chief justice.
Chiweshe was appointed acting CJ notwithstanding the fact that Section 181(1) of the constitution states “if the office of Chief Justice is vacant or if the office holder is unable to perform the functions of the office, the Deputy Chief Justice acts in his or her place, but if both offices are unable to perform their functions, the next most senior judge of the Constitutional Court acts as Chief Justice”.
Chidyausiku, seen by some as a stumbling block to Mnangagwa’s succession ambitions, left under intense pressure and slipped away for about two months until he met Mugabe by chance at a funeral and bounced back.
Mugabe asked Chidyausiku about his work, but was shocked to learn that he was no longer at work purportedly in line with a directive from the executive. Mugabe then ordered Chidyausiku to report back for work. If he stripped of the Justice ministry, Mnangagwa will remain in charge of the tourism, mining, agriculture, public service, higher education, sports and small and medium enterprises ministries.
Sources said ministers likely to be moved from their current portfolios include Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa, Energy minister Samuel Undenge, Indeginisation minister Patrick Zhuwao, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Tourism minister Walter Muzembi and Information minister Christopher Mushohwe.
Mugabe is also reportedly not happy with the lacklustre performance of War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube, Psychomotor minister Josiah Hungwe and Rural Development minister Abednico Ncube. Dube has presided war veterans’ revolt against Mugabe’s leadership.
The sources said Moyo could be moved the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund saga under investigation by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the need to take him back to resuscitate the dysfunctional Information ministry ahead of elections.
Mushohwe is being criticised internally largely because of complaints that under his tenure the public media has been captured and become factional. There have been complains about this in cabinet.
Although he is related to the president, Chidhakwa is said to be under fire because of the fiasco surrounding the consolidation of diamond mining companies. The plunge in mining revenues, especially from diamonds, since Chidhakwa took over the ministry is a major cause for concern to his boss.
At their peak diamond mining companies contributed about US$50 million a month to Treasury, but the new Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company is now contributing a paltry sum of less than US$100 000 a month. Officials also said there was a likelihood former mines minister Obert Mpofu could make a return to the ministry, although his tenure was marred by allegations of corruption and looting.
“Undenge could be moved because of the scandals at Zesa where he was fingered in a series of dodgy deals, while Mzembi could be on the way out as there is a feeling he is looking for a way to jump ship,” one official said.
Mzembi is campaigning to become the United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general.
Mugabe is also reportedly unhappy with how his nephew Zhuwao has been handling indigenisation issues.
Although there was talk last year that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa could be replaced by former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, government officials said Mugabe was content with him as he spears the Lima re-engagement plan.
Other ministers who are likely to continue in their current positions include Transport minister Joram Gumbo, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira and Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane. Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi is also likely to remain in his position, they said.
If the reshuffle goes ahead, it will be the third time since he controversially won elections in 2013. In 2014, he reshuffled cabinet after axing Mujuru and several ministers over unproven allegations of plotting his ouster and assassination.
In his last reshuffle in September 2015, Mugabe, under pressure from the Mnangagwa faction, moved Moyo from the Information ministry to Higher Education. The Mnangagwa accused Moyo of abusing the media to attack and denigrate the vice-president.
Government officials said Mugabe wanted to reshuffle cabinet last year, but stopped after being advised that frequent changes would give an impression that he was at sea over what to do.
“The need to improve government ahead of the elections and the desire to reassert control and manage the succession dynamics ahead of the elections will however force him into a reshuffle this time around,” another official said.