Mugabe’s cabinet choices dash hopes of reform

September 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm Leave a comment

 by Peta Thornycroft

President Robert Mugabe’s new cabinet includes hardliners accused of murdering opposition supporters and of destroying the economy over the last 14 years.

But his choices indicate that he narrowly supports vice president Joyce Mujuru to succeed him when he retires or dies.

Mr Mugabe, 89, flushed with success of a landslide election victory has turned his back on any possibility of rapprochement with his western critics by appointing a cabinet dominated by hardliners who obstructed political reform in the recently ended inclusive government.

The team includes his election agent, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who headed up the team which delivered victory at the July polls which many critics say were rigged. Mr Mugabe won more than 60 percent of the vote against his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who polled a feeble 37 percent.

Mr Mnangagwa, who is known for his determined ambition to succeed Mr Mugabe when he retires or dies, is justice minister. He heads a justice system widely believed to be loyal to Mr Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, and lacking independence.

He is also accused by human rights groups of involvement in mass murder of opposition supporters after independence. He is a trained lawyer and was tortured while in detention in what was then Rhodesia, but saved from the gallows by white lawyers who protested he was too young to die

Mr Mnangagwa has been associated with many of the worst excesses of human rights violations since independence. However he has been moved away from the more powerful defence ministry in Mr Mugabe’s new cabinet – a move analysts say is designed to keep him secure in his job while also indicating that Mr Mugabe would rather not have him as his successor.

Jonathan Moyo, the maverick one-time academic who designed repressive legislation in 2001 which curtails media freedom and which has resulted in the arrest of many journalists, has been brought in from the cold to head up the information ministry again. Mr Moyo regularly writes columns in the state media which some analysts describe as hate speech.

Patrick Chinamasa’s tenure in the justice ministry saw extraordinary manipulation of laws to jail supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. During this period many judges viewed as independent were forced from their jobs and replaced with judges loyal to Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. He now heads up the finance ministry and is considered shrewd. However he takes over a country bankrupted by the costs of the election and which will struggle to even pay its public servants.

Zimbabwe historian David Moore said Mr Chinamasa’s appointment as finance minsiter was critical: “Remember that Chinamasa was acting finance minister in 2008 when the Zimbabwean dollar was canned and Zimbabwe lost its effective sovereignty as it adoped its ‘multi-currency’ stance, meaning the US dollar became the real currency, and he has been reminded, in London, earlier this year that he should adopt West friendly policies if Zimbabwe was to return to the fold.”

Other analysts were depressed at the retention of Mr Mugabe’s old favourites in favour of reformists: “This cabinet sends a message of reassertion of the old guard, and is sending a message of consolidation of the old Zanu PF strategy. There is no indication of reform in this cabinet. Unless there is a change of messaging in the next few months, Zanu PF is battening down the hatches and consolidating its indigenisation programme,” said veteran Zimbabwe political analyst Brian Raftopoulos. He said the results of the July 31 elections were “very depressing.”

David Coltart, the outgoing education minister from the Movement for Democratic Change who served the inclusive government and managed to raise funds to re-open all Zimbabwe’s schools which closed during during the country’s world beating inflation, said his successor and former deputy Lazarus Dokora was “a decent man who will probably continue most of my policies but will struggle to finance them”.

He and other analysts believe some of the most controversial ministers in the previous cabinet have been demoted from major ministries to minor ones. The man who drove the indigenisation policy which was the major plank of Mr Mugabe’s campaign, Saviour Kasukawere, has lost that portfolio and has been given water affairs. His successor, the former wildlife minister Frances Nhema, is so “incompetent”, according to an analyst, that insiders say he could not drive any indigenisation policy, indicating that Mr Mugabe may be worried about takeovers of Zimbabwe’s largest foreign-owned companies.

Obert Mpofu, who conjured up a takeover by the state of private diamond mining leases, has lost the powerful mines portfolio and has been moved to transport. Mr Mpofu owns an undeclared multimillion dollar fleet of heavy transporters used in the mining industry.

Retained as Local Affairs minister is Ignatius Chombo who ordered local authorities to write off millions in debt ahead of election – a move is likely to threaten delivery of services and jeopardise the salaries of municipal officials and workers.

Mr Mugabe’s loyalists are largely divided into three factions, those who support him and no other; a group of moderates who favour Mrs Mujuru as his successor; and hardliners who support Mr Mnangagwa.

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