16 July 2010

Zimbabwe: Major Shake-Up At PM's Office

Harare — PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - undeterred by a war of attrition spawned by his recent axing of four Cabinet ministers -- moved another gear up this week by cleaning up his office at Munhumutapa Building in a major restructuring that has claimed the scalp of spokesman, James Maridadi.

Insiders within the Prime Minister's Office revealed this week that the re-organisation -- coming against the backdrop of a surprise Cabinet reshuffle last month -- was meant to improve efficiencies at Munhumutapa Building and doing away with certain characters perceived to be undermining the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader's authority and programmes.

It is however, feared that the restructuring which has the effect of re-defining alliances and battle lines within the party could widen the rift within the movement which is currently going through a crisis of ambitions ahead of the MDC-T's elective congress next year.

Simmering power struggles within the party's rank and file have rattled Tsvangirai who responded last month by wielding the dreaded axe on those seen as bent on weakening his grip on power which the former trade unionist has enjoyed since 1999 when the MDC-T was born.

Several top officers at the premier's office have been moved from Munhumutapa Building, which also houses the Office of the President and Cabinet, and redeployed to Harvest House -- the party's headquarters -- in order to create space for new brooms.

Maridadi, the Prime Minister's spokesperson is being replaced by the MDC-T's director of information, Luke Tamborinyoka.

Tamborinyoka, a former journalist, had been earmarked to assume his new duties on Monday but consultations on finer details of the restructuring delayed the official announcement of his appointment.

A meeting of senior party officials had been scheduled for Harvest House yesterday to seal Maridadi's fate but was stalled by Finance Minister, Tendai Biti's Mid-Term fiscal policy review statement delivered in Parliament yesterday.

The sweeping changes effected by the premier include the appointment of Jacob Mafume, a former legal advisor to the Prime Minister's Office, as the executive assistant to Ian Makone -- Tsvangirai's chief secretary.

Abisha Nyaguwo, formerly the director of the social cluster in the Prime Minister's Office, has been redeployed to Harvest House as chief of staff, taking over from Chris Mbanga.

Emmanuel Chiwanda, formerly the director of security in the Prime Minister's Office, has been shunted to the party's headquarters where he will be in charge of security while Valentine Sinamane, a former director of projects, has been deployed to the head office.

The changes come hardly a month after Tsvangirai appointed Jameson Timba, his confidante and strategist, as the new Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, replacing Gorden Moyo who has been re-assigned to the Ministry of State Enterprises.

Timba who is now firmly in charge of the day-to-day operations in Tsvangirai's office is said to have had a say in the new changes to help his boss command an octopus-like grip on the office.

Timba was yesterday reluctant to discuss the changes.

"What you allege are staffing issues, which I can't discuss in the media," he said.

Party officials alleged Maridadi has been a victim of power struggles in the MDC-T as he is viewed as a protégé of Ian and Theresa Makone.

To avoid a dirty fall-out, sources said a compromise could be worked out and Maridadi might be moved to protocol.

Theresa Makone, the MDC-T's co-Minister of Home Affairs, recently caused controversy in the party when she was implicated in attempts to spring out of police custody Martin Mutasa, the son of Didymus Mutasa, the ZANU-PF secretary for administration.

Tsvangirai has been under immense pressure from party supporters and senior MDC-T officials to dismiss Makone over her conduct but is reportedly digging his heels in on the grounds that the wife of his trusted lieutenant did nothing wrong as she was arguably within her ministerial mandate.

MDC-T insiders said after firing shots at perceived non-performers last month the Prime Minister has shifted his focus to Munhumutapa Building, which essentially co-ordinates his party's government business.

The MDC-T's performance has been below expectations partly as a result of the acrimony between the partners in the inclusive government which has slammed the brakes on key political and economic reforms.

But more importantly, the party has been ravaged by the vices of corruption and greed in most of the MDC-run municipalities and has largely failed to deliver on most of its promises.

Tsvangirai has acknowledged that while there have been successes in some areas there were still challenges "and these, frankly, overshadow our success to date."

"I am acutely aware that these and other challenges have led to loss of confidence in the new administration among the electorate. In response to this, as Prime Minister and president of the MDC, I have just completed a comprehensive review of the performance of the government and in particular my office and those ministers who represent the MDC," he said last month.

"As a result, I have decided on a number of changes needed to strengthen the performance of the MDC in government and outside government, in order to deliver real change to the people of Zimbabwe," he added.

Insiders said there were indications the restructuring, just like the Cabinet reshuffle, faced resentment among MDC-T officials flatly opposed to it.

"Some of these people are government employees and not party employees. They are uncomfortable going to work for the party. They are civil servants," said a source familiar with the latest goings on at Harvest House.

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