NEARLY half of President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet is likely to fall by the wayside in the coming weeks if not days as the ZANU-PF leader discards some of his lieutenants he now accuses of working against him.
Joice Mujuru, former President Mugabe’s number two, was shown the door along with eight other ministers. Although President Mugabe cited performance-related issues as having led to the sacking, it would appear that it had everything to do with the political skulduggery in the run-up to last week’s ZANU-PF congress. Mujuru, along with her perceived allies, came under a barrage of attacks leading up to the congress – accused of conspiring to topple President Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.
The widowed former vice president and others fingered in the plot have denied any wrongdoing. The axe fell on Mujuru and eight Cabinet ministers namely Didymus Mutasa (Presidential Affairs Minister), Nicholas Goche (Labour Minister), Francis Nhema (Indigenisation Minister), Olivia Muchena (Higher and Tertiary Education Minister), Webster Shamu (ICT Minister), Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs Minister), Dzikamai Mavhaire (Energy Minister) and Munacho Mutezo (Deputy Minister of Energy).
A number of other ministers might follow suit soon since about 15 of them were linked to Mujuru out of President Mugabe’s Cabinet of 29 (excluding deputy ministers).
Those who are sitting on the edge include Simon Khaya Moyo (Senior Minister), Sydney Sekeramayi (Defence Minister), Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs Minister), Walter Mzembi (Tourism Minister), Lazarus Dokora (Primary and Secondary Education Minister), Sylvester Nguni (Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President), Andrew Langa (Minister of Culture and Sports), Miriam Chikukwa (Minister of State for Provincial Affairs of Harare), Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (Minister of State for Provincial Affairs of Masvingo), Jason Machaya (Minister of State for Provincial Affairs of the Midlands), and Flora Buka (Minister of State in the Office of the President).
Those who can count themselves to be on the safe side are ministers who are considered not to be aligned to any of the factions in ZANU-PF, except to President Mugabe only. They include Kembo Mohadi (Home Affairs), Mike Bimha (Industry and Commerce), Joseph Made (Agriculture), Walter Chidhakwa (Mines), Douglas Mombeshora (Lands), Obert Mpofu (Transport), Ignatius Chombo (Local Government), Oppah Muchinguri (Women’s Affairs), and Sithembiso Nyoni (Small-to-Medium Size Enterprises).
With President Mugabe promising to deal decisively with factionalism, there is also uncertainty in the other faction. ZANU-PF is said to be split between two factions, one aligned to Mujuru and the other associated with Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Those in President Mugabe’s Cabinet associated with Mnangagwa include Josiah Hungwe (Psychomotor), Jonathan Moyo (Information), Patrick Chinamasa (Finance) and Saviour Kasukuwere (Environment). Permanent secretaries and heads of parastatals who have been part of the Mujuru clique are also in the line of fire as the net widens to ensnare those who are aligned with the deposed vice president.
Analysts are not even ruling out that some companies and their shareholders/executives could also be punished for their perceived support of Mujuru. Political scientist, Eldred Masunungure, said Mujuru had made some mistakes which she was now paying for.
“Her ambition was a mistake and she also made blunders in how she conducted herself by giving the impression that she was the better one. She cultivated the impression to the international community that she was better than the President and that she could be worked with as a more progressive person. She should have known better,” Masunungure said.
What exacerbated Mujuru’s plight, Masunungure said, was assuming that any of her interactions with western players would never be found out.
“You cannot behave as if you are in a silo. What you do in these political circles will always come to light,” he said.
The Cabinet reshuffle follows hard on the heels of a Central Committee purge which occurred just before the ruling party’s congress held between December 2 and 7. The purge in ZANU-PF has been a cause of headaches and ill health for those that could see the writing on the wall. Goche and Mutasa have been sick in the past two heated weeks.
Earnest Mudzengi, a political analyst, said the developments in ZANU-PF show that the issue of President Mugabe’s succession remains an erstwhile hot potato.
“These dismissals from Cabinet point to the fact that when you are in ZANU-PF you should never tamper with the President. They also point to the issue that (President) Mugabe is not yet prepared to leave office and anyone who dares to think about succeeding him is playing with fire,” he said.