HARARE – The two former army chiefs who landed Cabinet appointments last week have promised fireworks in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new government.
In what came as surprise appointments for many, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri of the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) and Zimbabwe National Army Major General Sibusiso Moyo were part of the 22-member Cabinet unveiled on Thursday by Mnangagwa.
Shiri is the new minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement while Moyo was appointed minister of Foreign Affairs.
Both generals played an instrumental role in the deposal of Mugabe in an operation launched by the military last month.
In separate interviews after taking oath of office at State House yesterday, the former military top dogs said they would take radical departures in their respective portfolios from that of the previous administration overseen by ex-president, Robert Mugabe.
Shiri said he would introduce a fresh land audit to weed out incompetent farmers as a precursor to bringing stability in the agriculture sector.
He would also ensure farmers have security to their land to make the resource bankable.
“It is not going to be business as usual. I know there are some land disputes and we want to make sure that we end disputes on land,” said Shiri.
“We also have the land tenure issue. It has to be resolved and clearly defined. We are also going to have another land audit to establish who is on which land. All land has to be fully utilised,” he said.
Shiri also vowed to press on with the Command Agriculture programme, which he oversaw as chairperson of the implementation taskforce during his tenure as the AFZ boss.
“The programme will actually be increased. We realise that we contribute immensely towards the country’s GDP, wealth creation and foreign currency earnings. We will just have to live up to the expectation of the nation in that respect.
“There is a slight difference in that last year, I was leading the technical implementation team, but now I am the minister responsible for Command Agriculture and all other aspects to do with agriculture,” he said.
GDP is an acronym for Gross Domestic Product, which refers to the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.
Shiri’s views resonate with those of Mnangagwa who, during his swearing-in ceremony about two weeks ago, promised to reform the agriculture sector.
While Shiri was more open and spoke freely, Moyo appeared a little averse and gave a terse response when asked what would be his main objectives as Foreign Affairs minister.
Also appearing to read from the same script as Mnangagwa, who has promised to open Zimbabwe for business and re-engage with the Western countries from which Zimbabwe has been alienated for close to 20 years, Moyo simply said: “My thrust will be economic diplomacy and transitional diplomacy.”
When asked to clarify what he meant, he said: “It’s a win-win situation,” and refused to entertain further questions.
Meanwhile Shiri, who was Moyo’s senior in military rankings, said there was nothing wrong with former military chiefs participating in politics.
“Who said military people should never be politicians? When I was in the military, I was under the ministry of Defence which is part of government. I am a Zimbabwean, I have got every right to participate in the country’s politics,” he charged.
Mnangagwa has been under fire from critics, who questioned the inclusion of army generals in his Cabinet.
The fiercest criticism came from exiled former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo — an unapologetic Mnangagwa faultfinder — who claimed recently that Mnangagwa was a puppet president of the army.
In one of his tweets, Moyo said while Mnangagwa was Zimbabwe’s de jure (rightful) president, commander of the defence forces, Constantino Chiwenga was the de facto (not necessarily by legal right) president.
Chiwenga is the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
A total of 22 newly-appointed Cabinet ministers took their oath of office before Mnangagwa, followed by 10 provincial affairs ministers, most of whom were retained from the Mugabe era.
A total of 11 deputy ministers were also sworn in.
Reinstated Prosecutor-General Ray Goba also took oath of office.
Goba was initially fired by Mugabe before he could be sworn in but was brought back by Mnangagwa last week after the High Court had given him reprieve.