and Blessings Mashaya
DEBATE continues to rage among the chattering classes over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s appointment on Monday night of Frederick Shava, pictured, as the country’s new Foreign Affairs minister.
The publicity shy Shava, 71, has been Zimbabwe’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. He will replace the late Sibusiso Moyo — who succumbed to coronavirus last month — in the key Foreign Affairs post.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, amid fierce debate over his appointment to the powerful position, some analysts said Shava’s significant experience as a top diplomat in China and the UN made him “a suitable” candidate for his new job.
However, others disagreed — pointing to his previous brush with the law, while also questioning his capacity to convince Western powers, that include the United States of America and Britain, regarding Harare’s re-engagement quests.
This comes after the government’s re-engagement plan with western countries appeared to have gone off the rails following the recent sanctions that were imposed on top security bosses by the British government.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science professor, Eldred Masunungure, said Shava had the gravitas to advance the government’s re-engagement efforts on account of his experience in diplomatic circles — notwithstanding his controversial past.
“The UN position he held will be of major importance more than the misgivings that may be there regarding his sordid past.
“Despite that past, he has been the face of Zimbabwe at a high level. So, that means he is not new to the job at hand,” he said.
However, Masunungure said Shava had a huge responsibility on his hands, as his appointment came at a time that the world was once again beginning to isolate Harare over its alleged failures to meet the promises that were made when Mnangagwa replaced the late former president Robert Mugabe following the stunning November 2017 military coup.
“It is a huge responsibility. He should be able to take up matters to ensure that he revives the re-engagement process that had appeared to be on the rocks following the recent UK sanctions on some security chiefs in the country.
“What could help Shava is that he is not gregarious, because at the moment Zimbabwe needs someone as calm as he is for this sensitive and strategic position.
“The man is also not arrogant and that could help him navigate the country’s turbulent diplomatic waters, where he has to consider the interests of both the West and the East in Zimbabwe,” Masunungure further told the Daily News.
Namibia-based political analyst, Admire Mare, also said on the balance of scales Shava “ticked all the boxes”.
“He has done diplomatic work in the East and the West, which puts him in good stead to continue with Moyo’s re-engagement efforts. The job is not for the faint-hearted.
“He has networks within the diplomatic community to do well in ways that can push the economic and political diplomacy agenda that was popularised by the late Moyo,” Mare told the Daily News.
On his part, professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, said Mnangagwa had appointed Shava because of his service in diplomacy.
However, he questioned his ability to convince the United States, Britain and other Western countries to fully re-engage with Harare.
“I think Shava was chosen because of his time as ambassador to China, clearly highlighting the fact that Zimbabwe has now few places to turn to in the world apart from China.
“In fact, and given his educational qualifications, he might have made a good technocratic minister of agriculture.
“Also, as Ambassador to the UN, one has to ask — especially in the light of arrears owed to the UN by Zimbabwe — how dynamic his performance was there,” Chan said.
Shava, a former Cabinet minister in the 1980s, resigned in the early years of the country’s independence from Britain after he was implicated, along with three other ministers, in the infamous Willowvale Motor Industries scandal.
Although he was sentenced to jail, he was subsequently spared from serving time in prison by Mugabe who pardoned him.
Shava served as the country’s ambassador to China between 2007 and 2014, before becoming ambassador and permanent representative to the UN.
He holds a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Philosophy in parasitology from Royal Holloway College, a Master of Science in nematology from Imperial College, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Zimbabwe.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News’s sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday at the weekend — ahead of Mnangagwa’s mini Cabinet reshuffle — political analysts said the Zanu PF leader needed to come up with a “credible” name for the crucial Foreign Affairs portfolio.
Chan said Mnangagwa’s challenge was compounded by the fact that the world’s eyes were on the choice for Moyo’s replacement.
“In this case, merit and skill should take priority over any internal balancing concerns. All the same, the late minister Moyo was skilful, not only in his international public role, but in acting as a diffuser of hot-headed impulses behind the scenes.
“I understand it was he who persuaded the president not to insist on the US Ambassador (Brian Nichols) from being recalled. This would have sent exactly the wrong signal to the new US presidential team.
“So, the choice has to be someone with weight and gravitas internally, but able to project a sense of Zimbabwe outwards as mature and balanced,” Chan told the Daily News On Sunday.
“A good minister of Foreign Affairs appreciates that it’s a negotiating position. Having said that, I cannot think of anyone in the current Parliament who has a combination of such skills at a high level. This will be a hard choice for the president,” he added.
Apart from appointing Shava, Mnangagwa also made further appointments — with Felix Mhona, the Member of Parliament for Chikomba Central, becoming the new Transport minister, filling the gap that was left by the late Joel Biggie Matiza.
In addition, Nokuthula Matsikenyere — the MP for Chimanimani West — became the minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Manicaland, replacing the late Ellen Gwaradzimba.
Further, Home Affairs deputy minister Mike Madiro moved to Transport and Infrastructural Development, while Makonde legislator and former journalist Kindness Paradza was made the new deputy minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services — replacing Energy Mutodi who was sacked last year.
Ruth Mavhunga-Maboyi, MP for Beitbridge West, joined Home Affairs as deputy minister.