PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday pulled a shocker when he dropped several Zanu PF party bigwigs, some who had served as Cabinet ministers for several years, and appointed three technocrats — former banker Mthuli Ncube as Finance minister, Winston Chitando and Amon Murwira (who both bounced back as Mines and Higher Education ministers respectively) — at the helm of his government’s plans to rescue the country’s battered economy.
Analysts, however, described Mnangagwa’s new 20-member Cabinet as largely uninspiring, as it was still dominated by recycled old guards who served in former President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
The axe fell on long-serving ministers; Patrick Chinamasa, Obert Mpofu, Simon Khaya Moyo, David Parirenyatwa, Supa Mandiwanzira, Mike Bimha, Petronella Kagonye, the majority of whom played a pivotal role in his ascendancy to power following last November’s soft coup against Mugabe.
Mnangagwa, however, made some surprise picks, with musician-cum-politician Energy Mutodi deputising Monica Mutsvangwa in the Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services ministry, while swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry landed the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministerial post.
Other surprise entrants were Mangaliso Ndlovu and Sekai Nzenza, who were appointed Industry and Commerce, and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministers, respectively.
Long-time Mnangagwa ally and Zanu PF national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri became the country’s first female Defence minister replacing Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, while July Moyo and Sibusiso Moyo retained their Local Government and Foreign Affairs portfolios, respectively.
Former Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Cain Matema bounced back as Home Affairs minister, as Perrance Shiri retained his Agriculture portfolio, which has now been expanded to include Climate Change and Environment tasks.
Another Mnangagwa ally, Joram Gumbo, was reassigned from Transport to the Energy ministry, as Prisca Mupfumira retained her Tourism portfolio.
Parirenyatwa was replaced by Obadiah Moyo, former head of Chitungwiza Central Hospital, while Kazembe Kazembe was moved from Sports to ICT, replacing Mandiwanzira.
Joel Biggie Matiza bounced back into government and replaced Gumbo as new Transport minister, while Ziyambi Ziyambi remained Justice minister.
However, analysts yesterday cast aspersions over Mnangagwa’s new Cabinet’s capacity to turn around the fortunes of the economy, arguing that the Zanu PF leader had made cosmetic changes and failed to trim government bureaucracy.
Mnangagwa appointed 13 deputy ministers, who include Victor Matemadanda (Defence), Jennifer Mhlanga (Local Government), Lovemore Matuke (Public Service, Rajeshukumar Modi (Industry), Edgar Moyo (Primary and Secondary Education), Douglas Kasoro and Vanelis Harritatos (Lands), Polite Kambamura (Mines), Magna Mudyiwa (Energy), Fortune Chasi (Transport), Jerifan Muswere (ICT) and Yeukai Simbanegavi as the new Sports deputy minister.
The Zanu PF leader, narrowly who beat MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa in the July 30 disputed polls, also appointed nine provincial ministers as he also dropped some of his top allies Josaya Hungwe and Owen Ncube.
Judith Ncube took over as Bulawayo Provincial Affairs minister, Mary Mliswa (Mashonaland West), Apolonia Munzverengi (Mashonaland East), Monica Mavhunga (Mashonaland Central), Ellen Gwaradzimba (Manicaland), Larry Mavhima (Midlands), Ezra Chadzamira (Masvingo), Abednico Ncube (Matabeleland South) and Richard Moyo as Matabeleland North minister.
Mnangagwa is still to appoint the Provincial Affairs minister for Harare.
Former Finance minister and opposition leader Tendai Biti said although the new Treasury boss was a respected financial guru with the capacity to turn around the economy, it remains to be seen if Mnangagwa would give him political space to fully execute the “good vision he might have”.
“I feel pity for Mthuli Ncube. He has the technical ability to run a disciplined economy, but I don’t see him having that stamina to control Zanu PF’s appetite of uncontrolled expenditure. The appetite to steal is so pronounced in Zanu PF and definitively agents of doom in the corridors of power will work against him. I don’t see him being able to withstand the corruption in Zanu PF. One good thing which we all must celebrate is the departure of Patrick Chinamasa, he was the worst minister of Finance we have ever seen,” he said.
“We need to celebrate the departure of Obert Mpofu as well as the likes of Supa Mandiwanzira. It is good riddance, and they belong to Chikurubi (Maximum Security) Prison. But generally, expecting anything from Zanu PF is a dead hope. They are just incompetent and corrupt.”
Harare-based independent economist John Robertson said Mnagagwa’s choice sounded “very encouraging, especially on the choice of Finance minister”.
“That’s a very good foundation for the country’s economic recovery prospects,” he said.
“I hope the President will permit those ministers to exercise their skills without interference.”
Ncube (55) is a former chief economist and vice-president at the African Development Bank (AfDB) and was also a lecturer in finance at the London School of Economics and Wits Business School in South Africa.
He founded Zimbabwe’s Barbican Bank and asset management company, which were, however, put into administration by the central bank in 2005 after only two years of operations.
The bank’s licence was later cancelled.
Ncube will be tasked with crafting an economic recovery programme as well as coming up with strategy to pay off Zimbabwe’s $1,8 billion arrears to the World Bank and AfDB.
Denford Mutashu of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers said Ncube had the capacity to deliver provided that there was political will and support from other government bureaucrats.
“We are hopeful that at least we have a new Minister of Finance whom we think and hope can instil discipline in a government that has been enjoying uncontrolled spending,” Mutashu said.
“The big issue is that he is not in Zanu PF structures, hence we think he could show some power and ability to regulate expenditure. He has a reputation to protect.
“He is one person who has no scandals to deal with. We are also happy with the mixture of the youth in the Cabinet, they will learn from the experienced and infuse new ideas. We hope the old guard in government will allow fresh ideas to run through and ensure that we have economic development.”
War veterans spokesperson Douglas Mahiya said they were happy with the appointment of Muchinguri and Matemadanda in the Defence ministry, saying they had a better appreciation of issues affecting the security sector.
“We are delighted with the appointment of Cde Oppah Muchinguri and Victor Matemadanda to be responsible for our welfare. These two people have been with us for a very long time and appreciate our plight,” Mahiya said.
“We know that our concerns and those of our people are well represented by these two. Cde Matemadanda has been through the trenches with us and we are quite happy that he will carry our story and ensure we have land, we have mines as well as our social being.”