By Wongai Zhangazha
PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson George Charamba says criticising President Emmerson Mnangagwa over his cabinet appointees is unjustified given the constitutional constraints the new leader faced.
Since appointing his 22-member cabinet on November 30, which comprises largely the same old and tired non-performers who served in former president Robert Mugabe’s failed regime, Mnangagwa has been under fire for failing to come up with a fresh, dynamic and inspiring team to deliver the promised “new economic order”.
Charamba said Mnangagwa was constrained by the fact that the constitution does not allow him to appoint more than five ministers from people outside parliament. He said energy should be expended on exploring ways in which the constitution can be amended to allow the president to appoint more technocrats in certain ministries.
Section 104 (3) of the Constitution states that: “Ministers and deputy ministers are appointed from among senators or members of the National Assembly but up to five, chosen for their professional skills and competence, may be appointed from outside Parliament”.
Charamba said the constitutional provision handicapped Mnangagwa.
“I felt pity for the President as he struggled to constitute his government. The man was disabled. He was constrained as he juggled around against multiple expectations. We give that president a mere five characters to appoint outside both low and upper house but still expect him not to give us deadwood,” he said.
“Moda kuti vaMnangagwa vaite sei? (What do you want Mnangagwa to do?) Did we expect the president to do the impossible? Why do we deploy phrases without recoiling from our own misdeeds as makers of that deadwood first as a voter?”
Charamba suggested a constitutional amendment could have assisted Mnangagwa, while also saying it was too early to judge him.
“I have always had problems with analysts who see deadwood in persons who are barely a day old on their assignments but without seeing how dead their cliché of analysis have been over time. Deadwood is not a new metaphor; it’s a chorus which tires the ear and also speaks of deadwood analysts,” he said.
“The best thing they can do as national interpreters is giving us something that is original. Do these analysts know what change management is? The more I look at some clauses of the constitution, the more I find Zimbabweans unclear of what we want. We write a constitution that constrains the executive to restrict appointment of non-members of parliament in the cabinet.”
Charamba said discussions on a “deadwood cabinet” need to take people to the nub of the matter where the constitution itself should be scrutinised.
“Why is the conversation not taking us to the nub of the matter? To start a conversation on whether or not the document called constitution is an effective governance tool and secondly whether the ballot and its results are the ‘be-all and end-all’ of constructing systems of governance.
“Flexibly governed societies do work with loose constitutions and sometimes do go beyond outcomes of the ballot.
In-built conceptual handicap in the national discourse is something quite tragic for a country that boasts of so many constitutional lawyers and political scientists whom we have in industrial quantities,” Charamba said.
“You don’t get a new blanket without getting to the shop. If you want new things make room for them. We never read out legal framework based on development aspirations and needs of our country. We simply cut, we simply paste. We have become serial critics who support clichés. That’s how much of a deadwood we are ourselves. We are not even original.”
Western governments said after Mnangagwa’s inauguration they were ready to work with him on condition he institutes political and economic reforms, as well as hold free, fair and credible elections.
Charamba said Mnangagwa met with emissaries from the East, West and different parts of the world, beyond particularities who showed their interest to work with the new government.
“These emissaries were a symbolic message to the world. When you have a change of leadership, old players seek to take positions and to take claims. That’s normal, let’s see what the future has. The future is likely going to be defined by the new foreign minister (Sibusiso Moyo) working on decisions made by the president and cabinet,” he said.
Charamba said while media reforms are in the pipeline, the Information Ministry has a backlog informed by the need to digest changes which are happening in the sector.
Media practitioners and activists say Mnangagwa must prioritise the implementation of long overdue media reforms, the safety and security of journalists, as well as the implementation of recommendations of the government-sanctioned Independent Media Panel of Inquiry (Impi) report.
“The only problem that I have is that the agitation for media reforms is prompted by transient calculations of elections due in six or seven months. I am not an elected officer, I am a bureaucrat and my reflex is to build a law that endures, a law that competently encompasses a sector,” Charamba said.
“I cannot proceed on the basis of transient calculations. The state of Zimbabwe subsists ad infinitum and the state is much more than institutions that make it. There are seismic changes happening in the media sector. It is futile hurrying to write a law which will prove perishable only the morning after.”