Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sworn in on Sunday, will have a tough time selecting his next cabinet as he moves to revive the country’s economy, which has been on its knees for two decades.
Political analysts and ordinary Zimbabweans noted that President Mnangagwa, who had to be declared winner of the election by the Constitutional Court after the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance filed an application to overturn his election, will have to find ways of dealing with the military element that helped him attain power in a coup last November.
Political analyst Conrad Gweru said Mnangagwa was faced with a big challenge to leave behind former President Robert Mugabe’s style of appointing cabinet ministers, which was based primarily on loyalty to the president rather than competence.
“Mugabe’s cabinet, which for several years included the current president, was made up of his loyalists who would have contributed in several ways to his hold on power,” Gweru said.
“I expect a lean cabinet that will be focused on industrial growth and re-engagement; a cabinet ready to advise the president based on knowledge and expertise. This will be a shift away from a cabinet which protects the interests of the ruling party, Zanu-PF.”
But media analyst Nevanji Madanhire said the people of Zimbabwe expected a cabinet of competent people drawn from current MPs, regardless of their political affiliation.
“I know through experience that ministers are simply the faces of the ministries and the real work is done by technocrats led by permanent secretaries who usually have doctorates. Ministers only perform a public relations function and I know therefore that President Mnangagwa will blend young and old, but the tone will be set by him alone,” Nevanji said.
President Mnangagwa had a large pool to choose from — his ruling ZANU-PF, the opposition MDC Alliance and independent candidates.
Madanhire said the blending of youth and the old could not be over-emphasised. The president’s stance on corruption would be largely weighed by the selection he would make.
Madanhire, who is a former Newsday editor (a privately owned daily) said Mnangagwa’s team should present a fresh face to the world and build confidence locally and globally.
“But I see more military people thrown into cabinet because the soldiers deliver what they are asked to deliver. As he says, a soldier turns right when told to turn right, left when asked to turn left. ED (Mnangagwa) believes in command,” Madanhire said.
Harare resident Teurai Mapesa said if Mnangagwa was to make independent decisions, he would rope in members of the opposition in his cabinet, but with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and other military personnel also calling the shots, this was highly unlikely.
“What we are likely to see is these guys creating jobs for the boys who helped them wrest power from Mugabe and share the national cake among themselves. There is not much that will change,” Mapesa said.
Women in Politics Support Unit (Wipsu), a civil society organisation which promotes the rights of women, said Mnangagwa should be guided by Section 56 (2) of the constitution which provides that women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.
“Therefore, we strongly urge the president to stand guided by the principle of equality and non-discrimination,” Wipsu said in a statement, adding that Mnangagwa should appoint a cabinet with an equal number of men and women.
This they said, would demonstrate his commitment to equal political opportunities for men and women.
“This action would be a clear demonstration of the president’s commitment to equal political opportunities for women and set the tone for the entire state to abide by Section 17 of the constitution, which calls for equal representation of both genders in all institutions and agencies of government at every level,” said Wipsu.
They said Mnangagwa had a pool of 177 women elected into parliament to choose from and had an opportunity to choose five more cabinet ministers outside parliament.The previous cabinet appointed last November had only four women out of 22 ministers.
Wipsu said that any appointments that disregarded equal representation would be a sign of a lack of political will by the country’s leadership to address glaring gender inequalities, 38 years after independence.
When he took over power from Robert Mugabe in November last year, Mnangagwa appointed almost all the cabinet ministers who had served under his predecessor, which Zimbabweans had for long regarded as dead wood.
“After the military takeover Zimbabweans expected to see new and less corrupt individuals, but unfortunately he failed to address that,” Gweru said.
In his last cabinet, Mnangagwa was accused of retaining and protecting people who had been fingered for corrupt activities. The former vice president had a torrid time trying to balance the people who had helped him during Operation Restore Legacy with those who had served in the old cabinet. However, President Mnangagwa had to withdraw some appointments after exceeding the allowed number of people appointed to the cabinet who were not MPs. DM
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