World’s eyes on ED as he seeks to replace SB Moyo

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WITH President Emmerson Mnangagwa keeping his cards close to his chest as to who he will appoint to replace three ministers who recently died from coronaviruslinked complications, analysts say his challenge is compounded by the fact that the world’s eyes are on his choice for the key Foreign Affairs post.
This comes as Mnangagwa has to replace the late Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Busi Moyo, the late Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza, and Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba — who all died last month after contracting the lethal disease.

It also comes as several big hitters have been named as possible candidates for the crucial international relations position — including career diplomat Stuart Comberbach, former Cabinet minister Frederick Shava, and another former diplomat and Cabinet minister Christopher Mutsvangwa, among others.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News On Sunday yesterday, as Mnangagwa contemplates an inevitable Cabinet reshuffle in the wake of these recent deaths, political analysts said he was under immense pressure
to come up with “credible” names for the replacements — especially for the crucial Foreign Affairs portfolio.

At the same time, Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba said no one knew when the president would make the new appointments, as well as who the new ministers would be.

“All such appointments are the sole prerogative of the president. So, I cannot say when he will do it, but certainly when there are vacancies these have to be filled,” he said. But analysts said Mnangagwa was facing pressure from a number of fronts as to who to bring in, in the mooted mini-Cabinet reshuffle, especially given geopolitical considerations and the political dynamics in Zanu PF — which, over the years, had tended to lean on balancing regional and ethnic considerations at the expense of meritocracy.

The late Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo

Stephen Chan, a highly-regarded professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, 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.

Another respected commentator, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure, also said if Mnangagwa was keen on moving forward his government’s Vision 2030, as espoused in the National Development Strategy, he would have to make the new appointments based on individual competencies, especially for the Foreign Affairs and Transport ministries.

“Individuals who are fit for purpose should be his guiding criterion, so that the new appointees move the relevant portfolios in the direction the president wants. “However, regional and ethnic concerns are a reality. Already, there are rumblings in Mnangagwa’s government over the alleged lack of regional balance. There is serious concern that there is more of Masvingo and Midlands than other regions,” Masunungure said.

He also suggested that if Mnangagwa felt that there was not enough depth in Parliament, he could sacrifice “unelected” individuals in the august house to accommodate technocrats that he wanted in his team.

“Obviously merit should come first because, for example, someone who is politically and academically sound enough to navigate the complex world of diplomacy is needed for the Foreign Affairs portfolio. In that case, the best option would be to recall some of the proportional representation MPs to make way for professionals, given that he (Mnangagwa) has exhausted his constitutionally-mandated appointments from outside Parliament.

“But such an option would require bravery because it potentially upsets the support base in the party,” Masunungure further told the Daily News On Sunday. Section 104 (3) of the country’s Constitution on appointment of ministers provides that ministers and deputy ministers are appointed from among Senators or members of the
National Assembly — but with up to five, chosen for their professional skills and competences, appointed from outside Parliament.

To this end, Mnangagwa has already appointed the mandatory five non-constituency ministers in Amon Murwira (Higher Education), July Moyo (Local Government), Kirsty Coventry (Sports), Anxious Masuka (Agriculture) and Mthuli Ncube (Finance). All this comes as several names are already being bandied around within Zanu PF and government circles, as possible candidates for the prestigious and highly-coveted Foreign Affairs post.

Among these include career diplomat Comberbach, who once served as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Italy, and later to Japan and South Korea. In 2014, Comberbach was named as a senior advisor in the late former president Robert Mugabe’s office — before he was appointed by Mnangagwa as special advisor to the ministry of Foreign Affairs under the late Moyo.

Another candidate being touted is Frederick Shava, a former Cabinet minister and ambassador to China. He is currently Zimbabwe’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations in New York. Also in the mix is senior Zanu PF official and former Cabinet minister Christopher Mutsvangwa — also a former director-general of national broadcaster, the ZBC, as well as former ambassador to China. He is currently the leader of the influential Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).

For the Transport portfolio, some of the names being bandied about include Zanu PF Midlands provincial chairperson Daniel Mackenzie-Ncube, who chairs the National Oil Company board, as well as former Zimbabwe
National Road Administration(Zinara) board chairperson Michael Madanha. Madanha is also a former Transport deputy minister. He is currently not a member of Parliament after losing Zanu PF’s primaries to deputy
Sports minister Tino Machakaire.

In Mackenzie-Ncube’s case, the Zanu PF Midlands provincial co-ordinating committee has since agreed that he replaces Moyo in Parliament as a senator — ostensibly to put him in line for possible appointment to the
Cabinet. But Mackenzie-Ncube told the Daily News On Sunday yesterday that his elevation to Parliament was
according to the Zanu PF party list that was submitted to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) ahead of
the 2018 elections.

Defence Minster, Oppah Muchinguri

“It is true that I am going to the Senate. It is, however, malicious to suggest that the province was preparing me for appointment to Cabinet because that is the prerogative of the president.

“The province cannot attempt to tie the appointing authority’s hands because at the end of the day it is about the competencies he sees in citizens across the country.

“My going to Parliament is premised on the fact that I am the sixth on the party list that is with Zec. So, and
now that Senator Moyo is no more, the rule is that the list the party submitted is followed. It had a woman on top, a man below in a zebra fashion.

So, and because the late minister’s position was for a male candidate, I am the next on that list,” MackenzieNcube explained. Regarding Gwaradzimba’s replacement, a top Mnangagwa ally,  Mike Madiro — who is also the Zanu
PF chairperson for Manicaland — is seen as a likely shoe-in for the position.

However, and with reports from Manicaland suggesting that he does not enjoy the backing of ruling party national chairperson and Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, this may not happen. Madiro, who is also deputy Home Affairs minister, spent a long time in the political wilderness after he was suspended by Mugabe for his role in
the infamous Tsholotsho declaration — an alleged clandestine meeting that was organised by a faction seen
as loyal to Mnangagwa in 2004, to plot his ascension to power.

Madiro only bounced back after Mnangagwa became president, following Mugabe’s ouster via a stunning and widely-supported military coup in November 2017.

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