ED’s expanding Cabinet: Just like the old days

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrives for the opening of Parliament in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s selection of a man with no university education as Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology is just one of many questionable appointments in last Friday’s reshuffle, which goes against earlier promises about his executive team.

Days after seizing power in November 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a leaner, more efficient administration in keeping with the new government’s austerity thrust.

After naming 22 ministers in his first December 2017 Cabinet, down from his predecessor’s 26, and only six deputy ministers, Mnangagwa’s team has started to look Mugabesque, two years on.

Last Friday’s reshuffle added a new full ministry – National Housing and Social Amenities – taking the full complement of ministers to 24, 20 Cabinet ministers and four ministers of state, and a blown up line-up of 20 deputy ministers. 

Deputy ministers have ballooned from six in Mnangagwa’s first administration, to 15 after last year’s election and 20 following last week’s reshuffle.

It is hard to see the calculations behind the reshuffle, although some observers have been quick to note how Mashonaland East seems to have ‘won’ the latest round.

Mnangagwa’s critics says his appointments, since 2017, have been dominated by his Midlands province.

The appointment of Murehwa North MP Daniel Garwe as Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities gives the province four full Cabinet members, including Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.

Midlands also has four full Cabinet members, including Mnangagwa, although the province also has two ministers of state – Owen Ncube and Jorum Gumbo.

Mashonaland East has five deputy ministers, while Midlands has two.

Beyond what may have been attempts at an ethno-factional balancing act, Mnangagwa’s reshuffle threw up some baffling picks; with the appointment of Sekai Nzenza to Industry and Commerce raising eyebrows.

Mangaliso Ndlovu, a young MP and a finance graduate from NUST, had looked like a smart pick for Industry. However, he did not inspire in his role. Yet, Nzenza as a replacement is unlikely to inspire either. 

Jenfan Muswere’s elevation to Minister of ICT has been met with derision after a video of him struggling to answer a question on Artificial Intelligence during a May 2019 conference on AI popped up on social media.

But perhaps the most baffling appointment is that of Machingura as Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education.

An official parliamentary profile of the Chipinge Central MP reveals a modest CV which does not rise to the typical level of senior ZANU-PF politicos, who like to flaunt their academic qualifications.

Machingura, who has worked for TelOne, lists two diplomas in telecommunications, as well as a stint as a lecturer in telecommunications between 1985 and 1991, among his qualifications and experience. He also has certificates in further education, finance for non-financial managers and project planning, among others.

The decent line-up that Mnangagwa appointed after the 2018 election was a tilt towards technocratic competence – 36-year old Kirsty Coventry ticked important boxes as Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, as did Mthuli Ncube at Treasury, Winstone Chitando (mines), Amon Murwira (higher education), Sekai Nzenza (public service) and Ndlovu (industry).  However, the recent reshuffle provides hints of a reversion to Mugabe-style political gamesmanship.

The appointments of Nzenza, Muswere and Machingura to positions they appear ill-equipped for have shades of some of  Mugabe’s worst picks, such as Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Ignatius Chombo as finance ministers.

Of the new appointees, new Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Clemence Chiduwa, inspires some confidence.

Chiduwa is a new entrant into Parliament, having won the Zaka East by election in September 2019. He holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe and is currently an Economics PhD student at South Africa’s North West University.

Chiduwa is not a newcomer to government, having worked as a senior economist at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and an investment analyst in the Office of the President and Cabinet.

He has also lectured at the Midlands State University, Namibia University of Science and Technology, and the University of Namibia.