By Moses Chamboko
In his own words, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said “The voice of the people is the voice of God”. We now hold him to his word. He must start listening to the sacred voice of God and move our nation forward.
Simply put, President Mnangagwa appears to have confused Commissariat with Cabinet. He also doesn’t seem to appreciate the real meaning of a “lean cabinet”.
Reducing ministers from 26 to 22 cannot pass as a big step towards a streamlined and efficient government. Yes, he got rid of some useless ministries created by Mugabe to accommodate factional interests such as Psychomotor Activities and merged a few others but, broadly speaking, it is more of the same.
He has appointed six unnecessary deputy ministers and ten unconstitutional provincial ministers whose practical function is that of provincial commissars. They should be full-time employees of the party not government. President Mnangagwa should have shown some respect for the new Constitution by disbanding provincial ministries and installing provincial councils.
Appointing nine non-parliamentarians to his ministry against the provisions of the Constitution which allows for a maximum of five, even though he climbed down later, demonstrates the irony that we had a Minister of Justice who did not fully understand the National Constitution.
We now have a Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans whose assistant is called Deputy Minister for War Veterans. This deputy’s role should simply be fulfilled by a department of the ministry with Victor Matemadanda as the director for that department.
The same applies to the Ministry of Women and Youth Affairs where the deputy is only responsible for Youth Affairs. If anything youth and women affairs should be departments of the Ministry of Social Welfare. Having a full minister responsible for scholarships is irrational — a typical case of jobs for the boys. Surely there must be a junior clerk in the Ministry of Education for this role.
David Parirenyatwa has not done anything notable to improve our health services. Beyond his family name, nothing of substance has ever come out of this minister. Our health delivery system has been in intensive care unit since Parirenyatwa became minister. He has no initiative and he cannot do even basic things like ensuring that patients have food and blankets.
Since he became Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa has been moaning about raising salaries for civil servants, every month. He has acted more like a school bursar than a Minister of Finance. Yes, there were times when his efforts were frustrated by Mugabe but the fact remains that he is not the best person to drive the revival of our economy.
We have Zimbabweans around the world who have successfully held very senior positions in international financial institutions. If the President did not want to select a decent technocrat from within Zimbabwe, he could have looked beyond the borders for the good of our nation.
Appointing a serving general who was spokesperson for the “non-coup” to the critical ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade remains a mystery. I would have given that portfolio to a diplomat such Chris Mutsvangwa or Simon Khaya Moyo as my learned, articulate and analytical homeboy, Alex Magaisa has also suggested.
Deployment of Sibusiso Moyo as the face of Zimbabwe in the international community sends a very poor message both abroad and at home especially so soon after the developments leading to Mugabe’s resignation.
While there is nothing wrong with generals assuming political office after retiring from service, it is the process and immediate leading events that are questionable in our circumstances. Both Solomon Mujuru and Josiah Tungamirai joined active politics after retirement from the military.
We did not see anything wrong with that. Agrippa Mutambara and Ambrose Mutinhiri are other examples. Elsewhere in the region, President Ian Khama is a general. The difference is that the moment he opted for politics, he relinquished his military role and fully subjected himself to democratic processes. He also immediately stood down as Paramount Chief of the Bamangwato.
Generally, Zimbabweans have very little confidence in and respect for Obert Mpofu. If President Mnangagwa had indeed listened to the voice of God, he would never have retained Mpofu, especially in the critical ministry of Home Affairs. If I had my way, I would redeploy Sibusiso Moyo to Home Affairs to cleanse the ZRP once and for all.
As for Perrance Shiri, it appears more like elimination by promotion. However, to give credit where it is due, despite his intellectual shortcomings, Shiri is an affable pragmatist whose performance as the minister responsible for Agriculture might surprise us.
The appointment of Winston Chitando to head Mining and Mining Development seems to be the most reasonable appointment that the President has made.
However, the underrepresentation of women and youth in the new cabinet is reprehensible. It appears ZANU PF only thinks about this critical constituency when it is time for rallies and elections. This neglect is nothing but abuse and lack of respect for women and youth.
Zimbabweans at home and in the Diaspora had hoped that a new, young, energetic, professional and technocratic Zimbabwean would be appointed to the critical ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
Re-appointing Chinamasa is as disappointing as retaining Dokora at Education, arguably the worst Minister of Education we have had since independence – undertaker of the education system. We are not excited to note that Dokora has finally been dropped. Rather, we are surprised that he was even considered in the first place.
Unfortunately, there is never a second chance to make a first impression. President Mnangagwa seems to have blown his first chance big time. Unless he does something radical in the interim, even if it means a quick reshuffle after Congress, progressive Zimbabweans will not take him seriously. He comes across as a “client President” who has no option but to look after his benefactors. This is the difficulty of coming into office through undemocratic means.
Many of us were willing to forgive President Mnangagwa and his cohorts for their past transgressions, real or imagined. We even threw our principles and caution to the wind hoping that our own John Magufuli or Deng Xiaoping had finally been born. We have read about sinners who went on to become saints. We thought this was President Mnangagwa’s moment. He had a real chance to get all Zimbabweans fully behind him in rebuilding the economy.
Some of us fiercely argued in the past three weeks that we should not prejudge Manangagwa. We went on to say that the composition of his Cabinet would reveal his real agenda and intentions. Now that he has retained and recycled some perennial failures and dead wood in his Cabinet, worse still in key ministries, we have every reason to suspect that where we are going is where we are coming from.
Zimbabweans expected an economic Cabinet but President Mnangagwa has given them a Commissariat, at best a “Command Cabinet”, very similar to the ‘war cabinet’ that Mugabe once put together after facing a stiff challenge from the opposition. It was about personal survival and nothing else.
Before his Cabinet was announced, the new President had raised national hopes so high through his inauguration speech as well as through a statement a few days later that he was going to form a lean government that would focus on performance and delivery.
Underperforming civil servants were put on notice in the process. We all thought that, finally, we were getting somewhere. Were we sold a dummy?
The President has missed a perfect opportunity to transform our economy and our politics. While we gave him the benefit of the doubt, it appears the honeymoon is over. It is back to the established ZANU PF way of doing things.
The only good thing that has come out of President Mnangagwa’s error of judgement is that the opposition has been emboldened. It is time to regroup and take the democratic project forward.
While Mugabe is gone, it is now time to focus on remedying the ruinous system he left behind. The fight is not over yet. 2018 is our opportunity to rid ourselves of the entrenched Mugabeism. We need transformation, not cosmetic change.
Moses Chamboko is an unwavering pro-democracy activist and Secretary General of ZUNDE. He can be contacted at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org , @zundezim. Website: zunde.org.