A WAR of words has erupted between Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo and Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi over a diplomatic gaffe by the latter who publicly criticised Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the east African country.
Mutodi accused Moyo of behaving like a superior minister or prime minister, hours after Moyo publicly censured him on national television over his comments criticising Tanzania’s response to the deadly coronavirus.
Mutodi tweeted last week that: “His Excellency John Pombe Magufuli’s Tanzania now has 630 COVID-19 cases with prayers, but without a lockdown, while His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe only got 31 cases with a lockdown and masks. An insight into how managers can be gamechangers.”
This caused Moyo to react to the undiplomatic language. He quickly distanced the government from Mutodi’s remarks, which he said were personal and disparaging.
On Tuesday, Mutodi, who rose to fame after his picture with Mnangagwa, then Vice-President, at his Zvishavane home on the 2017 New Year’s eve holding a cup inscribed I am the boss circulated on social media, warned Moyo to stop masquerading as his prime minister.
He reminded Moyo in no uncertain terms that he was in charge of the Foreign Affairs ministry, not the Information and Publicity portfolio.
“Your public statement which could have been sufficiently dealt with by a diplomatic correspondence to the Tanzanian embassy if it mattered, has divided public opinion first on the definition and meaning of government and whether you had become its prime minister in charge of the two ministries,” Mutodi wrote.
He warned Moyo to stay in his lane and not attempt to usurp the powers of another ministry by behaving as if he was responsible for speaking on behalf of government.
“With due respect to your highly regarded office, I wish to remind you that our two ministries operate on a divergent yet complementary role, with your Foreign Affairs ministry outward looking, while my ministry is inward,” Mutodi said.
“While my ministry is worried about the public perception on the national leadership, its image, electability and the public approval ratings of the President, your ministry focuses on foreign and diplomatic engagement, otherwise the two ministries should have been merged if they serve the same purpose.”
Yesterday, Mutodi also claimed that the Foreign Affairs minister and Christopher Mutsvangwa, husband to his boss in the ministry, Monica, wanted to kill him.
“Living in fear of the Chris Mutsvangwa-SB Moyo coalition. I hope it won’t resort to wartime tactics. Appealing for prayers,” Mutodi tweeted.
In his Tuesday letter, Mutodi said the fallout could have been contained without going public, a move taken by Moyo which has exposed government to public ridicule.
He drew contrasts on how the World Bank has been critical of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, while praising Tanzania’s coronavirus response and how United States President Donald Trump described the virus as a “Chinese virus”, but members of his Cabinet who could have differing views did not object in public.
Those close to Mutodi said he was livid over the public response by Moyo and sought to confront him, saying government was not a military barrack.
“He was angry and told members of his inner circle that Moyo still thinks that he is in the army where he can just issue orders and everyone jumps. He vowed to challenge Moyo and remind the minister that things are different in the civilian life,” said the source.
Mnangagwa’s government has been trying to delicately balance the competing interests of its civilian and military components as the former army generals feel they should have their way since it is their guns that swept them into power following the late former President Robert Mugabe’s ouster in November 2017.
The President has dismissed the allegations that he heads a divided government as insiders insist there are fissures in Mnangagwa’s government which could explode anytime.
Last week, Mutodi attacked his boss, Monica, accusing her of working with her husband to abuse the State media.