By Prince Tongogara
Harare, January 20, 2014 – President Robert Mugabe is set to conduct a mini-cabinet reshuffle upon his return from annual leave as a means of putting the brakes on the fast deteriorating economy less than six month after appointing a new team following his disputed landslide victory last year, political analysts say.
World Bank resident economist Nadia Piffaretti last week said Zimbabwe’s economy was set to grow by 4.2 percent in 2014, a lower figure than government’s projection of a 6.1 percent growth mentioned in the national budget statement last month.
Piffaretti also said the weakening South African rand will further affect Zimbabwe’s ailing industries as imports will become cheaper.
The cabinet reshuffle is further fueled by the imminent swearing in of former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor as senator to replace Kumbirai Kangai, who passed away last year.
The analysts argue that a deteriorating economy and the gloomy economic outlook will force Mugabe to reshuffle his cabinet particularly the ministries of Finance and Economic Planning, Industry and Commerce and Energy and Power Development which should play a critical role in the recovery of the economy which has taken several months to be felt.
Mugabe is expected to chop or reassign Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha and Energy and Power Development Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire.
Bimha is struggling to revive industry with many companies continuing to go into liquidation while Mavhaire has failed to make the country have reliable energy and the recent policy reversal on mandatory bending of petrol with ethanol.
Gono is widely tipped to be appointed the next Finance Minister.
Political analyst Ricky Mukonza said Mugabe is set to reshuffle his cabinet especially the Finance portfolio but may delay a bit for political reasons.
“Yes he will because the current Finance Minister is showing that he is out of depth in that portfolio,”
Mukonza said. “Meanwhile the situation continues to deteriorate and requires a character like Gono given his experience in managing the previous crisis,” he added.
Gono was the RBZ governor for the past decade when Zimbabwe experienced an agonising economic meltdown forcing him to implement unorthodox economic solutions that kept Mugabe’s government in power despite rising anger and instability during that period.
Another analyst Sydney Masamvu concurred with Mukonza that a cabinet reshuffle is imminent.
Masamvu said: “It’s inconceivable that Mugabe and Zanu PF will allow a person of Gono’s calibre to remain a backbencher at this moment of crisis. Gono is likely to be appointed to cabinet thereby necessitating a mini reshuffle.”
Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru widely believed to be Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba on Saturday further stoked the speculation with his public censure of Chinamasa and Bimha in his column.
On Bimha, Manheru wrote: “Why, too, even your ministerial name is a mistake at birth mistake that ruins all that follows. Circumstantially, you have become a minister of Trade, better still Imports, Sir. And you are doing a very bad job because your imports are evading banks and Zimra, leaving this economy anemic.”
Manheru was not yet done and tore into Chinamasa too. He scathingly wrote: “Himself a lawyer, Chinamasa perplexingly allows anger to outrun discretion. He asks the organisers why they invite people like Robertson to forums such as this! That was fatal, and a bad guy won, thanks to this human propensity for pity, for identifying with the supposed weak, the underdog.”
It remains to be seen what happens next but the dice has been cast and time will tell.