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Daunting task awaits new Cabinet

WITH Zimbabwe in serious economic woes, announcement of the new Cabinet was obviously a keenly awaited event. Tongues had for some time been wagging, posturing on a number of possibilities, ranging from size, selection and credentials of ministerial prospects.

WITH Zimbabwe in serious economic woes, announcement of the new Cabinet was obviously a keenly awaited event. Tongues had for some time been wagging, posturing on a number of possibilities, ranging from size, selection and credentials of ministerial prospects.

guest column: Cyprian M Ndawana

It is said that a week is a long time in politics. Now the veil has been lifted; a 20-member Cabinet was announced on Friday last week. While valedictory messages were dispatched to the old guard who were left out, also appraisals continue to pour in on the new members.

As I see it, a daunting task awaits the Cabinet. Given the mounting socioeconomic woes bedevilling the country, the Cabinet has no time for rehearsals. Like the buffalo soldier in Bob Marley’s song, Buffalo Soldier, the new Cabinet has to fight on arrival; fight for survival.

Subsequent to years of successive failed policies, a staggering majority of the population is living under the poverty datum line. Almost all public service deliveries are functioning at way below their capacities, compelling the monied ruling elite to shun local hospitals.

The no-expense-spared nature of the ruling elite was well demonstrated when President Emmerson Mnangagwa chartered an aircraft to transport former First Lady Grace Mugabe from Singapore where she had gone for medical care. Yet local hospitals do not have ambulances, basic drugs and dressings.

Last year, the then Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira announced that the unemployment rate stood at 75.5%. Obviously, this speaks eloquently about the massive closures of businesses, whose net effect is the vending that is conspicuous by its presence all over the country.

Basically, Zimbabwe is as good as being at ground zero. If the extent of the current ruination and dilapidation was the one prevailing around 1974, no one would have risked joining the liberation struggle. It could not have been worth risking leg and limp for, let alone life.

It is against this gloomy background that the Cabinet took oath. However, one question that is uppermost the mind of citizenry is whether it is equal to the task. Singularly, the 20-member Cabinet is brainy, diverse and vibrant. It heartened me that among the new entrants is my fellow newspaper columnist, Sekai Nzenza.

At face value, the assignment of the Finance and Economic Development ministry to renowned banker, academic and former vice-president of the African Development Bank, professor Mthuli Ncube, signals hope. He is regarded as the most able brains to spearhead economic reforms.

However, it remains to be seen if the Cabinet can collectively blend and rise above the noise from our polarised political environment. It has to be noted that even from Zanu PF, there are factions whose intraparty rivalry is intense and enough to hinder the cohesion of the Cabinet.

At the imminent risk of being branded a devil’s advocate, it is my heartfelt submission that the Cabinet is destined to fail. Given that the politburo is supreme to the Cabinet and as I see it, the technocrats are not likely to hold their own under pressure from Jongwe House.

Contrary to the era of deposed former President Robert Mugabe who, by and large, was the single source of power, Mnangagwa is virtually a candle in the wind. His hold on power is not as firm as that of his predecessor. He even mentioned of plans to impeach him.

He is wary of several constituencies within the party that are not wholly in support of him. Also, he is mindful that when he was dismissed last November, all but one province were quick to endorse the dismissal, with the party statement saying that he had no probity.

While the power struggle still rages along factional lines, the military, ever since it tasted political power, seems to be insatiable for the highest office in the land. It is not appeased by renaming of barracks. The fatal shooting of seven civilians in Harare last month was probably a statement of intent.

In view of the assortment of forces which Mnangagwa has to keep an eye on, the Cabinet is the sitting duck to aim at for anyone who wants to destabilise him. As if that was not enough worry to contend with, he also has a legitimacy crisis which keeps dogging him.

After initially coming to power through military intervention, if ever there is one thing Mnangagwa has since then been hankering for, it is legitimacy. He is well aware that not until citizenry freely, fairly and credibly elect him, he will essentially be an imposed President.

When the country held the harmonised elections, one thing he was desperate for was for the electorate to give him the legitimacy for the presidency. Yet, it was not to be. The contentious presidential election petition that was filed before the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) by his nemesis, Nelson Chamisa (MDC Alliance leader), decimated his hopes for the much-needed legitimacy.

Although the ConCourt ruled that Mnangagwa was the duly elected candidate, this verdict, nonetheless, did not guarantee him legitimacy. Like the military intervention which initially catapulted him to the presidency, he knew well enough that the prerogative to bestow legitimacy rested with citizenry through credible elections.

Yet management of electoral processes was basically a charade; so rudimentary that the outcome was a mockery of democracy. Ask anyone to comment on the performance of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and, most assuredly, the response would make you glum.

Confirmed reports of votes exceeding the number of registered voters, ghost polling stations producing thousands of votes for Mnangagwa and duplicated votes are contrary to the spirit of free, fair and credible elections.

Indeed, Zec abrogated its constitutional mandate to diligently manage electoral processes, thereby dashing hopes of Mnangagwa for legitimacy. The manner in which Zec went on a spree to revise the results it had initially published rendered the elections suspect.

No one, including Zec, can confirm with absolute certainty that the harmonised elections were free, fair and credible. Also, it cannot be ascertained that Mnangagwa garnered the requisite 50 plus one votes threshold.

Little wonder, only a paltry Heads of State graced his inauguration. It was apparent to them that the processes which handed him the presidency were flawed and fell markedly short of the requisite for credible elections. Hence, some opted to send envoys.

Given that the appointing authority of the Cabinet has a legitimacy crisis, initiatives of the Cabinet to lure investors are bound to fail. While Ncube is a bankable professional, the system he will be operating under is bound to be his undoing, it lacks legitimacy.

It suffices to state that the finance portfolio was once held by the eminent Bernard Chidzero, whose track record was impeccable. He missed being the United Nations secretary-general by a whisker. Yet the economy crashed under his watch due to the system’s fiscal indiscipline. That very indiscipline still prevails under the name corruption.

Given his dearth of legitimacy, on one hand and a spend-free inclination on the other, Ncube will be as frustrated as was Chidzero. Most probably, despite his being patriotic, he will rue the day he accepted the Cabinet appointment. A regime that sinks loads of money on cars for chiefs, war veterans and chartering aircrafts to appease a predecessor cannot endear with investors.

As I see it, the Cabinet is being deployed to a gun fight yet it is armed with knives.

 Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana is a public speaking coach, motivational speaker, speechwriter and newspaper columnist. Email muketiwa. mmsb@gmail.com Cellphone +263776413010