Succession Politics Influences Mugabe’s Ministerial Appointments

By Sij Ncube

HARARE, SEPTEMBER 11, 2015 – President Robert Mugabe on Friday sworn-in new ministers and deputies, in a cabinet reshuffle analysts say has been influenced by the dynamic succession politics in the faction-riddled Zanu PF.

Simon Khaya Moyo, a perceived sympathiser of former Vice President Joice Mujuru who was fired last December in both government and Zanu PF together former big-wigs, has been removed from the portfolio of Economic Planning and Investment Development.

Mugabe appointed his “obedient son” Obert Mpofu to the post.

Christopher Mushohwe has been moved from Indigenisation, Youth and Economic Empowerment to be minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services.

Mushowe takes over from Prisca Mupfumira who was in an acting capacity following the reshuffle that saw Professor Jonathan Moyo being moved to Higher and Tertiary Education.

Mpofu will be deputised by Monica Mutsvangwa, former Media deputy minister.

Other new ministers are Abednico Ncube (Rural Development and Preservation of National Heritage); Joram Gumbo (Transport) and Makhosini Hlongwane (Minister without Portfolio).

The new coming deputy ministers are Edgar Mbwembwe (Foreign Affairs); Obedingwa Mguni (Home Affairs); Barry Kachikwana (Lands and Rural Resettlement); Chris Chingosho (Local Government, Public Works and National Housing); Michael Madanhi (Transport); Adrian Masiiwa (Health); Thokozile Mathuthu (Media); Tshinga Dube (War Veterans); Annastacia Ndhlovu (Tourism); Bertha Chikwama (Lands and Resettlement); Monica Mutsvangwa (Economic Planning) and Tapuwanashe Matangaidze (Public Service).

Although the vacancies created by deaths and a recent mini-cabinet reshuffle undertaken after a vicious purge of perceived enemies that in December last year, but analysts say the “job-for-the boys” deployments further raise serious concerns about Mugabe’s political wherewithal to rejuvenate the comatose economy.

Mugabe’s nephew Zhuwao has bounced back after being side-lined after the July 31, 2013 polls. He is now one of five non-constituency members of parliament appointed, filling the vacant post created by Jonathan Moyo’s victory in Tsholotsho North in the June 10 by-election.

The son of Mugabe’s late sister Sabina, Zhuwao is columnist of the Zanu PF controlled propaganda mouth-piece, The Sunday Mail, in which he has been penning long articles supportive of the First Family as well as making cheap shots ridiculing the opposition, particularly MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Critics say despite being a Mugabe close relative his partisan weekly column has earned him his stripes as Zhuwao’s comeback into government is seen as hugely significant in the Zanu-PF power play.

The analysts are adamant Mugabe is merely re-arranging the decks chairs to handle his succession conundrum which is reportedly giving him and his wife, Grace, sleepless nights ahead of the crunch 2018 polls.  

Obert Gutu, the MDC-T spokesperson, expressed surprise that with an already bloated Cabinet of about 70 ministers, Mugabe has seen it fit to appoint 14 more ministers to join the gravy train.

“The Zanu PF regime cannot even afford to pay civil servants their salaries on time and Treasury is now going to be saddled with the extra burden of paying salaries and perks for 14 additional ministers. This is a complete disgrace.

“Our roads and railway infrastructure is dilapidated and electricity is only available for about 6 hours a day countrywide. Many parents failed to send their children back to school for the third term because they cannot afford to pay school fees. Public hospitals and clinics don’t have any medicines and the whole public health delivery system has virtually collapsed,” he said.

But Mugabe is not bothered one bit, added Gutu, adding that to him, political patronage is a tool that he routinely uses to make all his surbodinates pay homage to him.

“He wants to be treated as a demi – god. As the MDC, we reiterate that unless and until Robert Mugabe steps down from office, Zimbabwe is completely doomed.”

Trust Matsilele, a Zimbabwean business and financial journalists cum political analyst based in South Africa, says it is shocking Mugabe appears content with a bloated cabinet in a ten billion dollar economy.

There are concerns Mugabe has made the announcement nearly two years to the next general elections in 2018.

There is a consensus he should have continued with the people he has in his current cabinet, citing the example of Nigerian President Buhari who has operated without a cabinet nearly a year after toppling former President Goodluck Jonathan despite managing a huge economy. 

But Matsilele says the problem is not about the period to the next polls but that the same cabinet will simply syphon an already crumbling economy.

“Mugabe as has become his custom is simply appeasing his lapdogs and poodles,” he said.

Alec Magaisa, a political analyst and celebrated constitutional lawyer based in the United Kingdom,   said: “What is the rationale for government expansion when it says it has no money and can’t even pay debts?

Zimbabwe owes foreign creditors $9 billion; an indication the government does not have the latitude of a bloated cabinet and civil service.

Magaisa added: “It can only be rearrangement of the deck chairs to handle the succession headache which is fast running out of control. Bring them on board and keep them happy, seems to be the temporary remedy. At this rate every Zanu (PF) MP will end up in Cabinet.”

But critics are agreed these latest appointments are fruitless and wasteful, claiming it is the reason why the current Mugabe administration is viewed as hopeless.

Said Matsilele: “Citizens should not expect more than what they are already receiving. The choices of a 91 year old person are surely informed by those around him so the dynamics are succession politics in nature.”

Grace, Mugabe’s wife, is seen as having been instrumental in the appointments.

Bhekithemba Mhlanga, a former journalist now practising as an economist in the UK, said the appointments coming at a time the government is technicality broke and the country reeling from a severe financial crisis, shows Mugabe is clueless in rescuing the economy and the country from years of stagnation.

“It just goes to show what matters in Zimbabwe. This is what failure in leadership breeds,” said Mhlanga.

Some critics described the appointments as occasioned by the  “last supper mentality” while others questioned the citizens’ silence as taxpayers money is being abused to bank-roll a bloated cabinet at a time workers, including civil servants are being fired.

According to the IMF, the government has agreed to retrenched thousands of civil servants in attempts to cut its huge public sector wage bill.