President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday wielded the axe sharply, dumping much of the deadwood that had for decades been part of the team of ‘‘permanent members’’ in former leader Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet line-up.
And in yet more pleasant surprises, a bold Mnangagwa also significantly reduced the size of the previously bloated Cabinet — while also taking away the key Defence portfolio from his influential deputy Constantino Chiwenga.
The 75-year-old’s new-look Cabinet includes former swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry, as well as highly-regarded banker Mthuli Ncube — as Mnangagwa clearly indicated that his main focus under his term will be to revive the country’s ailing economy.
As correctly predicted by the Daily News earlier this week, the new Cabinet line-up excludes most of the old guard who had dominated Mugabe’s executive.
Apart from sending several bigwigs packing, Mnangagwa also trimmed the number of ministries to 20 — as he sought to cement the image of a new political dispensation in the country with his first major decision as Zimbabwe’s leader.
“I appointed a diverse, dynamic, youthful and streamlined Cabinet, with the skills and experience required to achieve our goals. Now it is time to get to work.
“We would want to grow, modernise and mechanise our economy. We believe that in the next five years we will be able to transform our people into middle income citizens,” he said yesterday.
Among the heavyweights that he sacrificed are his top ally and former Treasury chief Patrick Chinamasa — who has lately copped a lot of criticism due to the country’s tanking economy.
Chinamasa was replaced by the 55-year-old Ncube, a former African Development Bank (AfDB) deputy president and founder of the now-defunct Barbican Bank.
Other bigwigs who fell by the wayside include Mike Bimha, Josiah Hungwe, Simon Khaya Moyo, Christopher Mushohwe, Webster Shamu, Obert Mpofu, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, David Parirenyatwa, Supa Mandiwanzira, Petronella Kagonye, Martin Dinha, Angeline Masuku, Owen Ncube and David Musabayana — who served in the previous Cabinet as either full ministers or provincial ministers.
On Tuesday, this publication correctly reported that Mnangagwa would dump the deadwood that had worked for decades with Mugabe, and shunt some of them to the party’s headquarters as Zanu PF adopts a modus operandi which gives it more power than the government — similar to the Chinese model.
Well-placed Zanu PF insiders told the newspaper that Mnangagwa was “definitely going to re-assign many bigwigs” to the party’s headquarters — commonly referred to as Shake Shake House in Harare street lingo — in a bid both to strengthen its administration and to also breathe new life in government.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a similar model, which has also lately been adopted by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.
For the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa appointed a woman to preside over the Defence and War Veterans portfolio, when he promoted Zanu PF chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri to assume the reigns at the powerful ministry.
The ministry had until now been superintended by Chiwenga — a situation that critics said went against the tenets of the law.
Olympian Coventry was appointed minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation — in a move that was hailed by many Zimbabweans as a step in the right direction.
Mnangagwa replaced Parirenyatwa with Chitungwiza Hospital chief executive officer Obadiah Moyo, who was credited with transforming the dormitory town’s biggest medical facility.
Other new comers in the Cabinet are Monica Mutsvangwa (Information, Media and Broadcasting Services), Mangaliso Ndlovu (Industry and Commerce), Cain Mathema (Home Affairs), Sekesai Nzenza (Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare) and Joel Biggie Matiza (Transport and Infrastructural Development).
Mnangagwa also appointed war veterans’ secretary-general and one of his fiercest backers during Zanu PF’s ugly succession wars, Victor Matemadanda, as deputy minister of Defence and War Veterans.
Colourful businessman-cum-politician, Energy Mutodi — who ignited a firestorm in Zanu PF when he was famously pictured with Mnangagwa holding a cup inscribed with the words “I am the Boss” — was appointed Mutsvangwa’s deputy.
Mnangagwa retained ministers Sibusiso Moyo, Winston Chitando, July Moyo, Perrance Shiri, Amon Murwira, Sithembiso Nyoni, Prisca Mupfumira, Ziyambi Ziyambi and Paul Mavima — who all remained in their previous portfolios.
He re-assigned Kazembe Kazembe to the ICT ministry where he replaced the out-of-favour Mandiwanzira, while Joram Gumbo takes over at Energy and Power Development, which was under Khaya Moyo.
Political analysts said Mnangagwa’s new Cabinet was “largely progressive”, but rued the absence of one or two representatives of the opposition from the team.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, also said the president should have appointed more technocrats.
“He did not scan deep enough away from Zanu PF. He should have scanned more in the business sector.
“Maybe the problem with the opposition, especially the MDC Alliance, was that it has dug in and is now a prisoner of its own paranoia.
“This may have made life difficult for ED, but he could still have gone beyond the MDC Alliance and appointed people like Thokozani Khupe in his team,” Masunungure said.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said Mnangagwa’s appointments were a welcome departure from the past where “deadwood was accommodated on a political patronage basis”.
“I think it’s a reasonable Cabinet. I like the inclusion of new young blood and the retiring of people like Chinamasa and Mpofu.
“It is also a masterstroke to make Mthuli Ncube Finance minister and Coventry Sports minister. And it’s a brilliant move to move Defence away from Chiwenga.
“I think Mnangagwa showed some signs of reform here. Now we await to see if the policy and legal framework also changes to enable these new Cabinet members to perform,” Saungweme said.
Full list of new ministers:
Finance — Mthuli Ncube
Defence — Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri
Higher Education — Amon Murwira
Primary and Secondary Education — Paul Mavima
Lands, Agriculture — Perrance Shiri
Mines — Winston Chitando
Energy and Power Development — Joram Gumbo
Transport — Joel Biggie Matiza
Information — Monica Mutsvangwa
ICT — Kazembe Kazembe
Tourism — Prisca Mupfumira
Sport, Arts and Recreation — Kirsty Coventry
Health — Obadiah Moyo
Justice — Ziyambi Ziyambi
Women Affairs — Sithembiso Nyoni
Public Service — Sekesai Nzenza
Home Affairs — Cain Mathema
Industry and Commerce — Mangaliso Ndlovu
Local Government — July Moyo
List of Provincial Affairs ministers
Bulawayo — Judith Ncube,
Mashonaland West — Mary Mliswa
Mashonaland East — Apollonia Munzverengi
Mashonaland Central — Monica Mavhunga
Manicaland — Ellen Gwaradzimba
Midlands — Larry Mavima
Masvingo — Ezra Chadzamira
Matabeleland South — Abednico Ncube
Matabelelend North — Richard Moyo
Harare — Still under consideration
Evelyn Ndlovu and Davis Marapira were appointed ministers of State in the offices of the two vice presidents.