PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured)’s cabinet reshuffle has caused consternation in government and Zanu PF as officials believe it was motivated by the need to consolidate and retain power rather than arresting the deepening socio-economic crisis or getting rid of corrupt and incompetent ministers.
Senior government and Zanu PF officials told the Zimbabwe Independent that Mnangagwa consolidated power by, among other tactics, appointing his loyalists and increasing the number of Zezuru ministers and deputy ministers in an ethnic balancing act. This followed complaints that his Karanga ethnic group had become too powerful in government and the security sector.
Mnangagwa is from the Midlands province.
Mnangagwa was under pressure to reshuffle cabinet from senior Zanu PF officials who believe the party is destined for a heavy loss in the 2023 general elections if government fails to find solutions to the economic implosion.
Officials are, however, disappointed that ineffective appointees, like Health minister Obadiah Moyo, retained their cabinet posts while those implicated in corruption, like Joram Gumbo, are still in government, as Mnangagwa chose self-preservation ahead of national interest.
“As you are aware, there were complaints that Mnangagwa, who is from the Midlands, adopted (former president Robert) Mugabe’s model by surrounding himself with people from his ethnic clan. During Mugabe’s time, Zezurus were powerful and held key positions, especially in the security sector. When Mnangagwa assumed power, he made sure that all security sector commanders are from the Midlands or Masvingo. He also reduced ministerial appointees from the Mashonaland provinces as he consolidated his grip on power,” an official said.
“The Zezurus were complaining and, as you know, there is always a need for ethnic balancing in Zanu PF. As part of his power retention drive, Mnangagwa has now appointed his Zezuru loyalists to ease the discontent. He, however, did nothing to get rid of deadwood and corrupt officials to indicate he wanted to change the country’s fortunes.
“Ministers who have failed to deliver on social issues like health, water and electricity kept their positions, which is worrying.”
Mnangagwa promoted a key ally, former Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services deputy minister Jenfan Muswere, to head the ministry.
Government officials say Muswere is close to Mnangagwa’s son Emmerson Junior and played a key role in the November 2017 coup which toppled Mugabe and catapulted Mnangagwa to power.
Muswere also helped Mnangagwa to escape from Zimbabwe by skipping the border into Mozambique enroute to South Africa just before the coup.
Muswere’s role in the coup was also highlighted in a book written by Douglas Rogers titled Two Weeks in November. The book, although not a definitive account of the coup, details what happened prior to and during the military operation.
“Junior had turned it (his offices) over to Dr Jenfan Muswere, one of the people who’d helped ED escape, and Jenfan had turned it into a political command centre for Lacoste operations. They called it The Pentagon,” Douglas wrote. “One of the reasons so many people had gathered in the Avenues for the march, it turned out, was because Jenfan had distributed free fuel, water and printed posters to Lacoste supporters from this very building.
“Moreover, these past couple of days, assisted by Monica Mutsvangwa, war veterans and allies in the Youth League, Jenfan had worked with Zanu PF’s 10 provincial committees to coordinate and drive the resolutions to recall Mugabe as party leader, reinstate ED and expel Grace and leading members of G40.”
During the period, Muswere was in constant touch with Mnangagwa and Junior.
“Muswere communicated progress back to the safe house in Pretoria where ED and Junior were still poring over the Constitution and consulting with lawyers as to how to impeach Mugabe. Between calls to the provinces, Muswere joined the march or watched it from the windows and sent WhatsApp messages and photos to Junior about the sea of people on the streets outside,” Douglas wrote.
Muswere was the subject of banter last week after a file video of him displaying ignorance of artificial intelligence during an interview at an artificial intelligence conference in Geneva, Switzerland, was shared on social media.
Mnangagwa split the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to create National Housing and Social Amenities, effectively making room for Murehwa North legislator Daniel Garwe.
“Despite being a lawmaker, Garwe made headlines last year when he earned a wholly suspended two months imprisonment for resisting an order stopping him from stripping two farms in Harare and Mvuma, as he was undergoing a nasty divorce with his wife. If he was an ordinary man, he could have gone to jail,” an official said.
His estranged wife Miriam Garwe had obtained a court order in June last year, stopping the legislator from taking or disposing of any of the assets held under the family companies and family trust.
But in defiance, Garwe took away part of the matrimonial property, prompting the wife to file contempt of court charges against him.
David Musabayana, a former Minister of State for Mashonaland East province, was appointed deputy Foreign Affairs minister.
Other appointees from the Mashonaland provinces include Wedza South legislator Tinoda Machakaire, who was appointed Youth deputy minister and Zvimba North legislator Marian Chombo, who was appointed local government deputy minister.
Mnangagwa last year tightened his grip on the security sector by appointing his close ally, Owen Ncube, as State Security minister. Ncube oversees the Central Intelligence Organsation (CIO), which Mnangagwa put under the control of his other Midlands ally, Isaac Moyo.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is run by General Philip Valerio Sibanda and the Air Force of Zimbabwe by Air Marshall Elson Moyo, both of them Midlanders although with a Zipra background. The Zimbabwe National Army is headed by Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo, also a Mnangagwa ally from Masvingo.
All those in charge of the security sector have a Midlands-Masvingo regional background, Mnangagwa’s own sub-tribe, a reversal of Mugabe’s Zezuru-centred deployment framework and pattern.
Mnangagwa also used the cabinet reshuffle to replace former Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Prisca Mupfumira by appointing Industry minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu to run the portfolio.
A number of ministers changed portfolios in a case of musical chairs.
“We however expected him to drop ineffective ministers among them the Health minister (Moyo) who has shown all and sundry that he has no capacity to deal with issues affecting his ministry. He has failed to find solutions to the prolonged doctors’ strike which has exposed government,” a senior government official said.
Officials expected Mnangagwa to appoint a Health minister who is respected by the medical profession.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent last year showed that Moyo was an academic and medical impostor, who is not a registered practitioner with the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ).
His decision to reappoint Gumbo, who was recently arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, before being released without going to court, has also received criticism.
As Zanu PF’s former chief whip in parliament for many years, Gumbo played a key role to prop up Mnangagwa by recruiting legislators to his faction. At the time, Mnangagwa was fighting a faction led by former vice-president Joice Mujuru.
Ineffective ministers like Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza, Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema, Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu also remained in cabinet.
At party level, senior Zanu PF officials remain unconvinced that the technocrats brought into government are serving a purpose. Senior officials at party headquarters believe Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, in particular, has been a disaster.