HARARE, June 24, 2015 – PROFESSOR Jonathan Moyo was yesterday mum on his fate in government as speculation swirled over his current status in President Robert Mugabe’s administration amid reports he has temporarily “stepped down” on procedural grounds.
Not helping matters was the deafening silence in the partisan state media which are largely seen as Mugabe and Zanu PF’s mouth-pieces.
No single state media house, both print and broadcast, carried a report on Moyo’s status despite the story making front page news in two independent daily newspapers, who intimated the fire-brand minister of Information and Broadcasting Services had been sacked.
But instead of clarifying or shedding light on the issue, Moyo avoided commenting on his fate on social media despite numerous questions from his legion of followers on Twitter.
He chose to concentrate on bashing the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) over its attempts to arrest Sudan president Al Bashir over an International Criminal Court arrest warrant two weeks ago in South Africa during the African Union Summit.
When asked by one follower whether he was twitting from home or office Moyo said: “From cyberspace.”
But while the nation awaited the official position, critics of Moyo speculated his fate has been sealed in government as part of managing the runaway ambitions of the G40 group.
Alex Magaisa, a constitutionally lawyer who teaches at Kent University, twitted that the silence in high circles and the state media suggested something more sinister than temporarily “stepping down.”
“(The state media) could easily have clarified. The media (private media) is groping in the dark, they are on to something but no one is quite sure what it is. So a bit of guess work (but) this one is the proverbial hot-potato,” said Magaisa.
He wondered why there was “a loud and deafening silence” in the state media.
Earlier in his analysis titled Legal Briefing on the Prof Moyo’s Cabinet Situation, Magaisa pointed out that Mugabe has the right to appoint or disappoint ministers as per the requirements of the country’s constitution, adding the ZANU PF leader would also be within his right to follow procedure following Moyo’s election as the new legislator for Tsholotsho.
“If indeed, the President’s intention is to retain him, he could have easily avoided the drama that has accompanied the occasion by doing a straight-swap, literally moving the chairs or, in other words, moving Moyo from the one chair of Minister as a non-MP to the chair of Minister as an MP,” wrote the former legal advisor to former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
“It would have been quick, bloodless and without all the drama. Moyo would still be exercising his functions as Minister, rather than a situation where he has had to go home and await re-appointment.
“This might suggest that there is more to it than mere procedure. If it is merely procedural, then the Government has created unnecessary drama. There is fertile ground to speculate that this is more than just a procedural matter.
“It’s probable that President Mugabe might be unhappy over something or he might want to use this occasion to do a Cabinet reshuffle, which is entirely at his discretion. He might have another portfolio in mind for Moyo, which might explain why he has not followed the simple and straightforward procedure of a straight swap. He might be opening up space for a preferred candidate, perhaps the First Lady herself? There can be all sorts of speculation as to what President Mugabe is up to and why he has done this. Has he sacked Moyo for good? Or is he merely following procedure? Will Moyo bounce back as Information Minister or will he return in another portfolio? Will he return at all? Is this all part of the succession battles within Zanu PF? We just don’t know.”
Maxwell Saungweme, a Zimbabwe development analyst based in Afghanistan closely following political developments in Zanu PF, said whatever the truth is regarding Moyo’s fate: whether it is a technicality and administrative issue or outright sacking, the truth remains that ZANU PF is house in disarray.
“Some argue that it’s a procedural issue that he temporarily exits cabinet, but does Mugabe really respect procedures. (Phelekezela) Mphoko and (Emmerson) Mnangagwa’s appointments flouted procedures, but they are still Vice Presidents because the emperor (Mugabe) wants them there. So its possible Moyo’s could be losing favour with the emperor again hence his exit from cabinet.
“He and his cronies at the state media are trying to play it down, but the truth will be clear soon. The bottom line is there is too much in-fighting in ZANU PF, and that is attributable to Moyo’s exit whether temporary or for good. “