HARARE – President Robert Mugabe demoted former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa while he was in Washington attending an annual global meeting of Finance ministers and central bankers organised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
Chinamasa, who was demoted to the ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation, was recalled from the October 13-15 meeting, without giving a reason for the decision.
Chinamasa was due to hold meetings in Washington ahead of the start of the annual meeting, and was scheduled to attend a panel yesterday to discuss risks and opportunities of technological change that was led by Jonathan Ostry, the deputy director of the Research Department at the IMF.
Chinamasa had to rush home and missed an opening address by the World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim on Thursday.
Chinamasa was also due to attend the launch of the Monetary and Capital Markets Technical Assistance Strategy Update.
Government sources said the presidency did in fact grant permission to Chinamasa to attend the Spring Meetings, but later rescinded its decision after the new Cabinet line-up was unveiled late on Monday.
According to government’s ministerial handbook, ministers and their deputies must approach the president in writing two weeks before any planned official visit abroad.
It has been confirmed that the presidency received such a request from Chinamasa and it was submitted on time.
But on Monday, Mugabe appointed Ignatius Chombo as the new Finance minister at a time Chinamasa was away in Washington — suggesting the veteran Zanu PF leader was aware that the minister would be out of the country.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti’s opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said: “The man at the centre of economic decline in the motherland is in the United States attending to meetings meant for Treasury officials, with the shock from non-event called a reshuffle in Zanu PF diction, poor Patrick will enjoy the longest and lonely trip back home.
“On arrival he will be faced with an obligation to report for duty at a ministry with no office, no desk and secretary to at least bring him a bottle of water, falling from the highest rung of addressing press conferences with 500 scribes at the World Bank to be a nobody waiting for a ministerial scale salary.”
The presidency has explained the role of Chinamasa’s new portfolio.
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said the ministry was a “protective ministry which needs to protect the interests of the State”.
“I have just been talking to the president about the role of that ministerial portfolio and the president was very clear in his mind that he is dealing with an emerging threat to the State of Zimbabwe, a threat that is founded on abuse and unlawful conduct on the cyberspace and a threat which is unusual, which is quite new and therefore which needs a development of a new body of law,” Charamba said.
Biti’s party said that it had warned Chinamasa that he would fail in his Finance portfolio, after he ignored advice from Biti.
“The PDP, however, has no sympathy for this chap, he must face the music, we warned him that the reptile infested party had no respect for economics and that he would fail, in fact we even offered him the opportunity to practice law at Tendai Biti Law which offer he chose not to take,” Biti’s party said in a statement.