Mugabe to overhaul cabinet on return

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is likely to reshuffle cabinet soon after returning from his annual holiday in the Far East, despite last week’s changes, which will see several ministers and their deputies, most of whom are linked to former vice-president Joice Mujuru, dumped.

Faith Zaba/ Elias Mambo

The reshuffle — which will follow last week’s replacement of dismissed pro-Mujuru ministers — would likely see First Lady Grace Mugabe enter cabinet as Women’s Affairs and Gender Development minister, taking over from Oppah Muchinguri. Mugabe did not appoint anyone to the portfolio when he announced new cabinet ministers last week despite initially drafting in Victoria Chitepo before she was inexplicably dropped.

Muchinguri was reassigned to the Ministry of Higher Education, replacing Olivia Muchena who was dismissed together with Mujuru and seven other ministers, accused of plotting to topple and assassinate Mugabe.

Senior government sources said Grace was already preparing to take up the post as she has ordered department heads from the ministry to submit reports to her.

“The First Lady is preparing to take up the post. She has told all department heads to submit reports related to programmes and staffing to her, which they have done,” he said.

“Grace can’t wait to come in. The norm has been that the party secretary for Women’s Affairs is appointed Minister of Women’s Affairs.”

Grace was recently confirmed as the Women’s League boss at the just-ended congress (December 2-7), making her the most powerful woman in the ruling party after the recent ejection of Mujuru from the politburo and government.

Constitutional expert Lovemore Madhuku said Mugabe has to drop one of his five appointees in order to accommodate Grace.

According to the constitution, ministers or deputy ministers are supposed to be members of parliament; however the president has the leeway to appoint five individuals into parliament.

After last year’s general elections, Mugabe appointed as non-constituency MPs Jonathan Moyo (Information minister), Martin Dinha (Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister), Lazarus Dokora Education minister), Faber Chidarikire (Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister) and Joseph Made (Agriculture minister).

“Mugabe will have to remove one minister from the five appointees so as to accommodate his wife. But talk is already there that he is going to drop Dokora, who is alleged to be a Mujuru ally,” Madhuku said.

“Grace could have been appointed on the same day the two vice-presidents were sworn in but those in Zanu PF felt this was going to overshadow the appointments of Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.” Last week’s appointments were more of replacements of those who were removed or died in the case of John Nkomo, sources said. A proper reshuffle is actually looming, they added.

Government sources also said some permanent secretaries will also fall in the reshuffle, as the purge against officials linked to Mujuru — who was vying to succeed Mugabe against Emmerson Mnangagwa last week elevated to the vice-presidency — continues.

Mugabe left the country last Sunday with his wife and is set to return on January 15. Mnangagwa is acting president.

Sources said the president went on an early holiday because of pressing commitments in January. Mugabe is scheduled to attend the AU summit in Addis Ababa on January 30 and 31 where he will assume the regional organ’s chairmanship, and a Sadc Troika on Politics, Defence and Security meeting aimed at resolving the political crisis in Lesotho also slated for January.

He was forced to hastily appoint ministers to fill the gap he created after firing Mujuru and her backers. Mujuru, Nicholas Goche (Labour), Muchena, Dzikamai Mavhaire (Energy) and his deputy Munacho Mutezo, Didymus Mutasa (Presidential Affairs), Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland East), Francis Nhema (Indigenisation) and Webster Shamu (ICT) were all fired last week.

A top government official said: “President Mugabe had to appoint new ministers last week to replace the fired ones so that cabinet remains properly constituted. However, there is going to be a proper reshuffle in January when he comes back from holiday.”

Top government and politburo sources said Mugabe would appoint more effective ministers, not the “mismatches” announced last week.

The sources said the changes might affect the economic ministries, but Mugabe is in a dilemma on which suitable candidates to appoint into those ministries. There are plans to move Patrick Chinamasa from Finance to Justice, they said. While there was an initial proposal from the Mnangagwa camp to move Moyo to Higher Education indications now are that he will retain his portfolio.

“There are mismatches like SK (Simon Khaya) Moyo heading the Ministry of Economic Planning, Muchinguri in Higher Education, Samuel Undenge and his deputy Tsitsi Muzenda in a key ministry like Energy and even Christopher Mushowe in Indigenisation. These ministries are key to the country’s economic development, so the president will reshuffle and come up with a more vibrant team, particularly to head to the economic ministries, to take the country forward,” he said.

Sources said ministers likely to fall as they have been dropped from the central committee because of their association with Mujuru include Dokora (Education minister), Flora Bhuka (Presidential Affairs), Sylvester Nguni (Minister of State in Vice-President’s office) and Andrew Langa (Sports).

Provincial ministers who might not survive are Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (Masvingo), Jason Machaya (Midlands), Miriam Chikukwa (Harare) and Abednico Ncube (Matabeleland South).

Deputy ministers likely to fall include Fortune Chasi (Justice), Tendai Savanhu (Lands), Fred Moyo (Mines), Paddy Zhanda (Agriculture), Chiratidzo Mabuwa (Industry and Commerce), Petronella Kagonye (Transport) and Abigail Damasane (Women’s Affairs).

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