PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last week unveiled a new Cabinet comprising the same old faces and a few roped in to replace those who had been fired for working with or allied to former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
Mujuru, who was for the past decade locked in bitter factional battles with the newly-appointed Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was fired last week over allegations of plotting to unseat the 90-year-old Mugabe.
The appointments of the new Cabinet followed Mugabe’s announcement of a new look politburo made up of members from the Mnangagwa faction that came out victorious in the ensuing factional fights.
The politburo is now trimmed to centralise power on Mugabe and his wife Grace, who is now the Women’s League boss and also set to land a Cabinet position as Gender minister.
The portfolio appears to have been reserved for her by her husband.
The new politburo is now without many old faces who have been purged on allegations of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.
Former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, former party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, secretary for commissariat Webster Shamu, Indigenisation former minister Francis Nhema, nine provincial chairpersons and many more senior party members have been purged either before or after the congress that was dominated by the Mnangagwa faction.
The congress was described by axed war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda as a factional honeymoon and it saw Mugabe centralising powers on himself and his newly appointed deputy, Mnangagwa who is still the Justice minister and would also be national chairman on rotational bases with the other VP Phelekezela Mphoko.
Zanu PF chief whip Jorum Gumbo last week after the appointment of Mnangagwa and Mphoko and the some new ministers, immediately said the party would now focus on meeting election promises, chief among them, reviving the economy.
Analysts said Mugabe’s new Cabinet of recycled “deadwood” would not inspire confidence.
They claim the new Zanu PF executive under Mugabe will not bring Zimbabwe out of the economic mud.
Zimbabwe is facing serious economic challenges with unemployment spiralling due to company closures.
When presenting his 2015 National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa recently disclosed that the country’s employment rate was pegged at 11%.
The Zanu PF government crafted the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) blueprint, but poor funding had stalled it from kick-starting the ever-deteriorating economic situation.
Furthermore, opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has sensationally claimed Zanu PF factional fights have eclipsed the economic agenda.
Now that the congress is over, a new politburo and Cabinet appointed, should Zimbabweans now hope Mugabe and his party to redirect their energies to the economy and bring food on the people’s tables?
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said Mugabe and his team of Mnangagwa and Mphoko, who now form the presidium, need to be given time before an assessment of their performance could be made.
He, however, is pessimistic that anything progressive could come up from the new “unified” Zanu PF.
The University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer warns that Zimbabweans should be breast for even tougher economic times as Mugabe’s new Cabinet of recycled “deadwood” would likely do little to revive the country’s fledging economy.
Masunungure said it was too ambitious to think that the elimination of one faction, the Mujuru one, would make Zanu PF stronger and in a position to revive the country’s economy.
He said it was first important to realise that the contestations between the Mujuru and the Mnangagwa factions were all about power, not economic policy.
“I contest the view that Zanu PF would come up stronger after the purging of one faction. The fight between these factions was not about ideology, but power,” Masunungure said.
At the just ended congress, Zanu PF only mentioned economy in passing ,while the rest of the time was devoted to factional fights, denigrating Mujuru and idolising of Mugabe.
“Of course, the victorious faction was accusing the vanquished faction of sabotaging ZimAsset. So what we are going to possibly see is a vigorous implementation of ZimAsset, not a new economic policy. However, this is dependent on the authenticity of the allegations that the Mujuru camp was sabotaging it,” Masunungure said.
He said Zanu PF remained the same despite change in personnel level at the top.
Although the new Central Committee and politburo were now dominated by the Mnangagwa faction with only a few remnants of the Mujuru faction, Masunungure said, there were little hopes that it would change the country’s economic policies for the better of Zimbabweans.
“Weather the new ‘unified’ Zanu PF would come up with new policies to rescue the country, time will tell. The new VP, Mnangagwa, is known for his security consciousness and robust on those lines than Mujuru. His development thrust is yet to be seen. Only time will tell on the outcome of the new dispensation,” Masunungure said.
He said the new Cabinet unveiled by Mugabe was made up of old faces and expecting miracles from them would be too ambitious.
“The ministers are not technocrats. They are Zanu PF to the core and known for toeing the Zanu PF line. After all, only purging eight from a Cabinet of over 30 would not change the complexion of the Cabinet. The argument that recycling of old faces holds water does not apply,” Masunungure said.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a media and democracy scholar, said Mnangagwa’s appointment alongside Mphoko was in the interest of Zanu PF and Mugabe and the two would not make any meaningful contribution to the transformation of people’s lives as long as Mugabe was still in charge.
“Zanu PF will remain Zanu PF. They will remain authoritarian, vindictive and without a clear economic direction. There is nothing exciting about the appointments. There will be no policy shift. All of them are birds of the same feathers and all those appointed can only make face powder changes,” Ruhanya said.
He added: “The people of Zimbabwe will remain impoverished as long as Mugabe is still at the helm. Mnangagwa and Mphoko were hand-picked by Mugabe and will serve at his pleasure and there will be no policy shift any time soon. Hoping that Zanu PF will revive the economy through the newly-announced team of ‘tired and recycled’ deadwood is a fallacy.”
What people were failing to realise now, Ruhanya said, was that Mugabe was a life president and any form of democratisation or shift in policy in Zanu PF and the country would only come after he is gone.
He said with some policies like the indigenisation still in place, which is likely to be reinforced by the new team known for its hard-line stance, it would be difficult to lure investors to the country that badly needs foreign direct investment.
Newly-appointed Indigenisation minister Christopher Mushohwe said he would need to study the indigenisation act first to see if there would be need for amendments.
But he maintained that all foreign companies that needed to invest in Zimbabwe should respect the laws of the land.
Maintaining the usual Zanu PF rhetoric of justifying the shareholding structure 49 % to foreign investors and 51% to Zimbabweans and at times, without having to pay for the shares, Mushowe said: “Which is more important our minerals underground and your one million dollars. Look at the diamond companies, they have benefited a lot and do you think they should complain about the 49%?”
Takura Zhangazha, a political analyst, weighed in: “The fact that Mnangagwa and Mphoko were appointed by Mugabe as opposed to the previous method where they should have been nominated by provinces means that they will serve at Mugabe’s pleasure. They do not have the required legitimacy to manoeuvre their own ways and even Mugabe himself had already made it clear that they would be only work on instruction.
“There will be no shift in policy. Their leadership styles do not matter, they will serve at Mugabe’s pleasure. They need to have loyalty to Mugabe and would seek permission from him for doing anything he had not instructed,” Zhangazha said.
Another political analyst Charles Mangongera said: “Mnangagwa will continue with his hard-line stance that will not benefit Zimbabweans. What people want is food on the table. They want a new dispensation, not a perpetuation of Mugabe’s rule. It will hurt the economy, there will be no foreign investment. The people remain the biggest losers in Mnangagwa’s appointment alongside the recycling of deadwood in the politburo.”
Just next week, many Zimbabweans face a bleak Christmas holiday and whether the “new-look” Zanu PF administration would revive the economy and bring smiles back to the faces of millions of Zimbabweans, it will have to be seen.