THERE could be no job as difficult or impossible in this world as being a minister in President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet.
Mugabe does not give ministers the tools to do the job, but still expects them to get the job done. He expects the Minister of Finance to fund government services without the requisite finance, for example.
He does not give ministers enough leeway as he intervenes as and when he wishes. There is something haphazard about it that incumbents don’t know whether there are coming or going.
Ministers who had served him for 20 years or so were suddenly accused of not performing up to standard when he fired them this week. This can’t be true. A person cannot suddenly become incompetent unless they have suffered mental and/or physical impairment.
Against the backdrop of the dismissal of Vice-President Joice Mujuru, it is almost certain that the new team of ministers he appointed this week won’t dare to step out of line. They know the retribution that will come their way like the ton of bricks that was rained on their predecessors.
It’s possible that they have been selected on the basis of being pliant rather than competence. So, we can expect more of the same mediocrity and unmitigated failure as excellence is sacrificed on the altar of loyalty.
We should not raise our sights, but lower them because this lot will be frozen by fear of stepping on the toes of an unforgiving and unforgeting boss.
One tell-tale sign of Mugabe’s firm grip was seen in some of them kneeling before him expressing, as it were, eternal gratitude after being retained or appointed to the party’s central committee. It should not be about Mugabe, but Zimbabwe.
A good boss criticises in private, but Mugabe does not feel compelled to do that. He infamously insulted and humiliated former Finance minister Herbert Murerwa by saying that the ministry was being run like a funeral parlour. If the boss does not believe in you, you end up not believing in yourself. That is a recipe for inertia, for paralysis.
He is also highly suspicious of individual initiative because to him, loyalty, not to Zimbabwe, but to himself, is paramount. That is why lately he has reminded all ministers — including the Vice-Presidents — that they serve entirely at his pleasure.
The sword is ever hanging perilously above them if they show the least measure of independence. If you continually remind ministers that you can fire them at any time, they won’t perform to the best of their ability.
So, it can be deduced that what is essential is a paradigm shift on the part of Mugabe because nothing much will be achieved as long as Cabinet ministers are beholden or indebted to him, not Zimbabwe.
A captive Cabinet is bound to fail like others before it.