A case of loyalty vs meritocracy


HARARE – One of the biggest losers in President Robert Mugabe’s Monday Cabinet reshuffle was no doubt Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, along with other individuals perceived to have rooted for him taking over from the 93-year-old Zanu PF leader.

After announcing at a youth league meeting in Harare last Friday that he would be tinkering with his Cabinet, Mugabe did exactly that although basing his act on loyalty ahead of meritocracy.

Ministers thought to have been part of Team Lacoste, as the Zanu PF faction supporting Mnangagwa’s presidential bid is known, were put aside completely or reassigned to weaker portfolios in a new-look Cabinet that Mugabe believes will take him to the next election in 2018.

But perhaps it is important to try and proffer the reasons why some of these lost in the latest rejigging of Mugabe’s lieutenants.

Mnangagwa has always been suspected of harbouring presidential ambitions and has for long since 2014 been accused of planning to stampede Mugabe out of power. First Lady Grace Mugabe led the ripping of the vice president, along with key Generation 40 (G40) kingpins Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, and Patrick Zhuwao — who is also Mugabe’s nephew — among others.

A hitherto withdrawn and seemingly quiet politician, Mnangagwa lost the key Justice portfolio to intelligence boss Happyton Bonyongwe.

Under the former’s watch, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) — which falls under the purview of the Justice ministry — led the campaign to prosecute Higher and Tertiary Education minister Moyo on charges of siphoning money from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) — a department he superintends over.

Perhaps one aftermath of the reshuffle is that Moyo’s case will crumble like a deck of cards, dealing a telling blow to the anti-graft body’s ability to probe any other cases of abuse of State resources in the future which has been a perennial curse bedevilling Zimbabwe for decades.

Most of Zimbabwe’s parastatals are in the intensive care unit owing to a combination of funds embezzlement, corruption and poor corporate governance.

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, for long Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs minister, also got demoted to head the Macro-Economic Planning ministry, ceding the international relations portfolio to Walter Mzembi — who is coming in from the Tourism ministry.

Mzembi is a known Mugabe praise-singer just like Webster Shamu, who is coming in as Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister.

As Mugabe tinkered with his bloated Cabinet, the majority of Zimbabweans thought Mugabe would use the opportunity to trim it.

Certain ministries did not deserve to continue as standalone units, for instance Psychomotor, Provincial Affairs, War Veterans, the new Cyber security among several others should ideally have been departments within bigger ministries.

Obviously, the loyalty card played a significant role in shaping Mugabe’s mind thus, he rewarded the blue-eyed boys within his party with Cabinet positions, while at the same time whittling the powers of perceived enemies.

One reality, however, remains. Mugabe will be 94 when elections are held in 2018 and may not be as adept as he used to be in steering the ship of the State.

But possibly for Mnangagwa, if he was indeed aiming for Zimbabwe’s top job, this must have taught him a few lessons.

Following his alleged poisoning in August, there have been many conflicting statements on the issue but he had generally earned sympathy, having endured the pain of keeping quiet about such a serious issue.

However, recently while addressing supporters at the late Shuvai Mahofa’s memorial in Gutu, the VP is reported to have said what had happened to the late heroine in Victoria Falls was what had happened to him.

How that message was decoded, depending on the audience, was different with Mugabe and his wife, Grace getting clearly upset about it.

As a result, Mnangagwa’s image was reconstructed giving room for the furtherance of a demolition job set in motion months back.


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