By Gift Phiri
President Robert Mugabe announced a long-awaited reshuffle of his Cabinet last night and axed five ministers as he moved to freshen up his government.
Mugabe, whose three decade-plus grip on power is being tested by an internal party challenge, announced a new line-up with changes at the top, dropping Emmerson Mnangagwa from the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry, while cutting loose a number of lieutenants perceived as close to the embattled vice president.
Dropped from Cabinet are Priscah Mupfumira, Tshinga Dube, Abednico Ncube and Faber Chidarikire — all members of the so-called Team Lacoste.
The roots-and-branch shake-up comes after Mugabe accused unnamed senior officials of trying to push him into retiring and likened them to the biblical betrayer Judas Iscariot.
He will chair his new-look Cabinet meeting this morning.
Mugabe’s latest shake-up also saw some hitherto influential bureaucrats, again perceived as aligned to Mnangagwa, being demoted.
The list includes Patrick Chinamasa, who is now responsible for a weird ministry called Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation.
Christopher Mushohwe now heads what should otherwise be a department. He is now the minister of State in the President’s Office Responsible for National Scholarships.
Former Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is now responsible for the ministry of Macro-Economic Planning.
The transfer of Chinamasa to the obscure ministry of Cyber Security was the main talking point in the limited Cabinet reshuffle.
The president promoted his top allies within the party and government, giving plush jobs to Walter Mzembi, Simon Khaya Moyo, Ignatius Chombo, Obert Mpofu, Patrick Zhuwao and Thokozile Mathuthu.
Chombo will take up Chinamasa’s position, the chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda said in a statement last night.
Mpofu replaces Chombo as Home Affairs minister, while Khaya Moyo will replace Mushohwe as Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister.
After removing the vice president from his Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs position last night in a shock axing, Mnangagwa was replaced with Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Happyton Bonyongwe.
The changes basically decimated the key pillars that support Mnangagwa, leaving him hanging by a thread.
Mnangagwa, 75, enthroned vice-president in 2014, has headed off fierce opposition from Grace and the Generation 40 faction of the ruling party in recent weeks, with political temperatures heating up over claims that he had been hospitalised in August because he had been poisoned.
Mzembi, who is widely regarded as a future party leader and probably the biggest winner in the shuffle, takes on the key role of Foreign minister at a particularly challenging time, and at a time Zimbabwe and its former coloniser Britain have expressed readiness to open a new chapter of rapprochement.
Mzembi is being replaced by Edgar Mbwembwe in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry portfolio.
Mumbengegwi has been shunted to the Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion ministry.
Zhuwao becomes minister of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare following the axing of his predecessor, Mupfumira.
Kasukuwere retains the now Local Government, Rural Development and National Housing ministry.
Makhosini Hlongwane remains the head of the now Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture.
Cain Mathema has been appointed minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators.
Chiratidzo Mabuwa becomes Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Employment minister.
Maboyi Ncube has been appointed minister of State for Matabeleland South, Mathuthu minister for Matabeleland North, Webster Shamu minister of State for Mashonaland West, while Paul Chimedza becomes minister of State for Masvingo
Mugabe’s Cabinet reorganisation rallied support and outrage.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change described the reshuffle as “a very big yawn.”
“This is very big yawn, indeed a massive exercise in futility,” MDC spokeperson Obert Gutu said.
“Mugabe has totally and completely lost the plot. Actually, he should have reshuffled himself by immediately announcing his retirement.
“What kind of ministry has been created for Patrick Chinamasa? What type of nonsense is that? Chinamasa is now effectively on the same level as a WhatsApp group administrator.
“This is a very big joke that isn’t funny. The most effective reshuffle will come after next year’s elections when the entire Zanu PF dictatorship, warts and all, will be booted out of power.”
Emmerson Mnangagwa (from Justice ministry)
Happyton Bonyongwe, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
Paul Chimedza, minister of State for Masvingo Province
Webster Shamu, minister of State for Mashonaland West
Ambassador Maboyi, Matabeleland South
Edgar Mbwembwe, Tourism, Environment and Hospitality Services
Cain Mathema, minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans
Chiratidzo Mabuwa, Youth, Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment
Patrick Chinamasa, Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation
Christopher Mushohwe, minister of State in the President’s Office Responsible for National Scholarships
Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Macro-Economic Planning
Ignatius Chombo, Finance and Economic Development
Thokozile Mathuthu, minister of State Matabeleland North
Walter Mzembi, Foreign Affairs
Patrick Zhuwao, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare
Obert Mpofu, Home Affairs
Simon Khaya Moyo, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services
Joseph Made, ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation & Irrigation Development
Saviour Kasukuwere, Local Government, Rural Development and National Housing
Mike Bimha, Industry and International Trade
Sithembiso Nyoni, SMEs
Douglas Mombeshora, Lands and Rural Resettlement
Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Water and Climate
Makhosini Hlongwane, Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture
Jonathan Moyo, Higher and Tertiary Education
Lazarus Dokora, Primary and Secondary Education
Supa Mandiwanzira, ICTs and Courier Services
Joram Gumbo, Transport
Walter Chidakwa, Mines and Mining Development
David Parirenyatwa, Health and Child Care
Samuel Undenge, Energy and Power Development
Sydney Sekeramayi, Defence
Kembo Mohadi, State Security