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Zimbabwe Briefing - Issue 116
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA Regional Office)
September 13, 2013

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Reading the Cabinet wrong

On the 10th of September 2013, 40 days after romping to victory in the disputed July 31 election, President Robert Mugabe finally announced his team to drive government policy and program implementation for the next 5 years. By the end of the announcement, my initial impressions were that this Cabinet was as new as the President appointing it, with a lot of continuity on the front line (The Ministers) and just a little bit of change on the backline (Deputy Ministers). My initial thoughts were that this was clear madness. Madness here, being used to refer to doing the same thing over and over again expecting to get different results. I made the argument to myself that there was hardly anything new about the cabinet, that only one person was dropped from the Zanu-PF contingent from the last government and that a number of people have returned to their pre-2009 ministries. My initial thoughts were that this is bad for the country and its economy because these were the people who presided over the demise of the same prior to 2009.

I however, immediately checked myself, after remembering that there are many things that Zanu-PF has done in the past that have closely resembled madness at first sight, but that almost always there was some method to the madness. I am convinced that generally there was nothing wrong with my initial thoughts, except that the reason why most right thinking Zimbabweans are not imbued with confidence by this cabinet and are afraid that it will fail, is because they are using lenses and standards of success, and key performance indicators that are different from President Mugabe’s lenses.

A Cabinet for Mugabe and Zanu-PF not for Zimbabwe

Where people expected a Cabinet to service the country, what they have got is cabinet to service Zanu-PF. Where people expected a Cabinet to enhance the country’s economic fortunes, what they got was a cabinet adept at improving their own and Zanu-PF’s balance sheet.

No one could have put it any better than incoming Government presumptive Spokesperson, Professor Jonathan Moyo, who said:

“I am coming in to do any assignment given to me by my boss. I am coming in as Team Zanu-PF, and Team Zanu-PF has a Captain.”

Ordinarily there would be nothing wrong, and no factual errors with this statement had Jonathan Moyo been reacting to an appointment to the Zanu-PF Central Committee. It puts clearly at whose service Jonathan Moyo, and those he now speaks for in Government, will be. He is in the service of Zanu-PF not Zimbabwe; he is coming in to serve the person not the people.

The Minister of Information, in his first pronouncements in that capacity betrayed the fact that we are poised to return to those “good old days” where the party was the state and the state was party, where Zanu-PF was the people and the people were Zanu-PF.

If there ever was room for doubting Jonathan Moyo, the principal himself, President Mugabe, spoke on inauguration of the Ministers saying;

“The decision (to appoint) was based on how much of Zanu-PF you are, how long you have been with us, and how educated you are.”

It is apparent from the foregoing that the Cabinet has also been used as part of a reward system that only entrenches Zanu-PF’s patronage system, and dares those who have remained outside to be more daring in their service of Zanu-PF, than those who have been rewarded.

Stagnation of the democratic reform agenda

One of the reasons why this cabinet was anticipated was also based on the fact that, whom Mugabe would surround himself with would give clear indicators of which direction he would take the country. Our organizational view was that, depending on who would be chosen it would indicate whether the President and his government, would, in terms of the transition, regress, stagnate or move towards further reform and consolidation of some of the positive gains from the GNU period.

The Cabinet as announced by President Mugabe is symbolic of the oxymoronic situation where the way forward is stated as being backwards. The new Cabinet’s resemblance to the retrogressive, economy wrecking, freedom arresting war cabinet of 2002 is striking, both in terms of Key actors and the politics rep-resented.

In essence, the Cabinet that the country has been saddled with leaves very little hope that this government can take us forward in terms of consolidating our democracy. If anything, the Cabinet is a loud warning shot that the only consolidation that it is intent on is Zanu-PF’s power through authoritarian consolidation. This is not a matter of conjecture but can be read from the strategic deployments that seem to have been made to stifle reform.

As things stand in Zimbabwe, given the new constitutional dispensation that this Government is supposed to preside over, having a “Hardliner” like Cde Emmerson “Ngwena” Mnangagwa standing guard at the Justice Ministry, is a sure sign that not only will justice not be done, but also that any legislative reform that may have been hoped for will die a quick death. Mr. Mnangagwa himself, is on record as saying that contrary to popular opinion, he is “as soft as wool”, but this ministry of Justice (which he is not a new to having presided over it in the past) and the new circumstances that he leads it under, present an opportunity for him to show whether he really is ‘as soft as wool’ or he is as ruthless as the crocodile that is his totem.

While the above can easily be put aside as conjecture, a sure fire sign that the democratic reform agenda is likely to be stalled during the life of this government can be found in the short but loaded statement, again by the presumptive spokesperson of Government, Professor Jonathan Moyo, who on being asked whether there would be media reforms he simply quipped;

“You do not reform anything that is not deformed.”

This statement, while telling, and while uttered by the new Minister of Information is reflective of a standing Zanu-PF belief that, contrary to all indications everything is alright in Zimbabwe and its body Politic. Whether this narrative prevails or not depends on how people respond to this clear statement of intent by the new government.

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