12 February 2009

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Keeps 'Worst Cabinet'

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last night prepared to re-appoint the same cabinet he recently described as the worst he has ever had. The line-up includes ministers who have proved manifest failures in office but who demonstrate a close attachment to the president -- some over a 30-year period.

Mugabe is preparing to swear-in today Emmerson Mnangagwa, Didymus Mutasa, Sydney Sekeramayi, John Nkomo, Stan Mudenge, Ignatius Chombo, Kembo Mohadi, Nicholas Goche, Sithembiso Nyoni, Joseph Made, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Paul Mangwana, David Parirenyatwa, Francis Nhema and Patrick Chinamasa

Others are Herbert Murerwa, Obert Mpofu, Webster Shamu, Flora Buka, Sylvester Nguni and Walter Mzembi.

The list of incoming ministers was announced last night by Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda.

Also to be sworn-in today at State House in the presence of South African President and Sadc chair Kgalema Motlanthe are nominees from the MDC factions.

Main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced his list on Tuesday which was confirmed with only one change. Eddie Cross who was allocated the Ministry of State Enterprises and Parastatals appears to have been removed. Joel Gabuzza has replaced him following internal MDC wrangles.

Tsvangirai was forced to revise his list after complaints that he had excluded MPs from Matabeleland where his party won a quarter of its seats.

Tsvangirai was also compelled to remove from his list Abednico Bhebhe whom he had appointed as Water Resources minister from the rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara. Bhebhe's nomination was seen as a reward for swaying the post of Speaker of parliament to Tsvangirai's faction after he mobilised Mutambara's MPs to vote against their own candidate, Paul Themba Nyathi, who was supported by Zanu PF.

Mutambara formation secretary-general Welshman Ncube last night confirmed that his party had written to Zanu PF and MDC-T on the Bhebhe saga.

"In terms of the agreement you cannot nominate a minister from another party. The nomination of our MP by MDC-T is therefore invalid," Ncube said. "If they want to appoint him minister, he will have to first resign from our party and vacate the seat, otherwise it is not possible to appoint him."

The formation of the unity government should be finalised today with the swearing- in of the cabinet by Mugabe at State House.

Mugabe's list of 15 cabinet ministers will contain a small forest of deadwood. The only youthful faces are those of Nguni, Mzembi and Buka.

Buka presided over the first land audit which predictably glossed over multiple farm ownership while Mzembi is responsible for the Zinwa fiasco which has seen an incompetent parastatal transform vast swathes of the country into a waterless desert.

The appointment of ministers who were in the last cabinet dissolved last February would be a serious indictment of Mugabe who described the same team as the worst he has ever had.

"This cabinet that I had was the worst in history," he said in August last year. "They look at themselves. They are unreliable."

Mugabe shuttled ministers like Mnangagwa, Mutasa, Sekeramayi, Mudenge, Nkomo, Murerwa and Chombo from one ministry to another and also into positions as governors and Speaker of parliament.

Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi have been closely associated with the country's sinister state security network while Nkomo has been Mugabe's pointman in holding the 1987 Unity Accord together.

Mnangagwa has the distinction of losing a series of elections, both party and national, including one to a candidate in hiding. Chombo will see his reappointment as a reward for crushing democratic outcomes in the nation's cities. Slavishly loyal, Mutasa once described Mugabe as Zimbabwe's king.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara met yesterday to finalise the list of cabinet ministers. Sources said Mugabe complained that Tsvangirai breached protocol by making public his choice of ministers before consulting his coalition partners.

Mutambara also raised the issue of Bhebhe, eventually forcing Tsvangirai to retreat.

Sibanda did not say which portfolios Zanu PF ministers will take. The allocation of ministries to specific Zanu PF ministers is expected to be announced at the swearing-in ceremony.

Sibanda also announced Mutambara's team which includes Gibson Sibanda, Welshman Ncube, Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga and David Coltart. Mutambara will appoint one deputy minister. Mugabe has appointed six deputy ministers and remains with two vacant slots. Tsvangirai appointed four and remains with two empty positions of deputy ministers.

By dropping Cross from his list of 13 full cabinet ministers in a desperate bid to address complaints of exclusion and marginalisation from Matabeleland Tsvangirai has created another problem by removing the only white representative in his cabinet. The move also left Bulawayo, where Tsvangirai's party swept all parliamentary seats, without any minister.

Apart from dropping Cross for Gabuzza, Tsvangirai has also nominated Gorden Moyo as minister of state, although he would not sit in cabinet. It is understood that he would also appoint two deputy ministers from Matabeleland.

Mugabe could still appoint two deputy ministers and two ministers of state. However, there was still a long list of those expecting to be accommodated.

Among them are Olivia Muchena, Ambrose Mutunhiri, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwawo, Bright Matonga, Joel Matiza, Andrew Langa, Tracy Mutinhiri and Hubert Nyanhongo, Zanu PF's only MP in Harare.

Mugabe also still has a senate position which is vacant which was linked to Oppah Muchinguri. Mugabe had already dropped 12 ministers who lost their seats.

Contrary to popular speculation, Mugabe did not appoint Jonathan Moyo into his team despite his last-minute campaign to defend Zanu PF and its failed policies in public remarks in the state media and online publications.

Moyo made a dramatic volte-face after March elections last year by dumping the MDC which he supported publicly to back Zanu PF where he had exited unceremoniously after the Tsholotsho saga in 2004.

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