Zimbabwe’s President Names Cabinet, Shuns Opposition

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks after being sworn in at the presidential inauguration ceremony in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 24, 2017.

Zimbabwe’s new president appointed a cabinet that sees Patrick Chinamasa return as the southern African nation’s finance minister and the opposition excluded as the government returned party loyalists to power along with generals weeks after a military coup.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed Winston Chitando as mines minister, Major General Sibusiso Moyo, who announced the coup on national television, will lead foreign affairs and Ziyambi Ziyambi will take on the justice portfolio, Cabinet Chief Secretary Misheck Sibanda said in an emailed statement. Chitando is the executive chairman of Mimosa, a unit of Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the world’s second-biggest producer of the metal.

Mnangagwa replaced Robert Mugabe after he resigned Nov. 19 to end 37 years in power. In his inaugural speech, the new president spoke about the need to revive an economy in free-fall, with a 90 percent jobless rate, a severe cash shortage and crumbling public infrastructure. Hopes of significant change have now been dashed, a leading opposition figure said.

“The honeymoon is over even before it had begun,” Tendai Biti, leader of the opposition People’s Democratic Party and a former finance minister, said on Twitter. “What a shame. What a missed opportunity.”

Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party said the cabinet was a disappointment.

‘Tired Faces’

“It’s the antithesis of most people’s expectations, more of the same old, same old,” the party’s vice president, Nelson Chamisa, said in a telephone interview. “Mnangagwa never reached out to us. That didn’t happen.”

The new cabinet, with “the same tired faces being recycled” means that a change in policy direction is unlikely, said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe.

“We had high expectations, but what we see is a ‘thank you’ cabinet — thanking the people that may have contributed in various ways to his ascendancy,” he said. “He promised to hit the ground running. That is not going to happen — it’s more like hitting the ground crawling.”

Generals Ascend

Mnangagwa came to power after a tumultuous three weeks that started with his firing by Mugabe on Nov. 6 following accusations by Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, that the former spy chief was plotting a coup. An intervention by the armed forces and a decision by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front to back Mnangagwa as its leader and to begin impeachment proceedings against Mugabe prompted the president to resign.

In addition to the cabinet, court decisions since the coup have been criticized as showing that little change can be expected in a country that has been riven by human rights violations for two decades. The High Court ruled that the coup was legal and an ally of Mugabe claimed that he was tortured while held in custody.

‘Military Deep State’

Mugabe appointed Ignatius Chombo to replace Chinamasa as finance minister on Oct. 10. Chombo was expelled from Zanu-PF and is in police custody following his arrest during a brief period of military rule from Nov. 15 to 21. He faces corruption and fraud charges and will appear in court Dec. 8.

In addition to party officials, the head of the air force, Perrance Shiri, was made agriculture minister, while Simon Khaya Moyo was put in charge of the energy ministry, Sibanda said in the statement, television, becomes foreign minister. Vice presidents were not appointed.

Mnangagwa did take steps towards reducing the costs of the executive.

“It’s still a big cabinet, although he’s reduced the number of ministries to 22 from 33. It’s still expensive,” Harare-based economist John Robertson said in a telephone interview in the capital. The addition of Chitando as mines minister “may bring in a new perspective and hope given his experience,” he added.

Still, Mnangagwa’s administration faces the challenge of restoring funding lines with international lenders such as the World Bank and igniting growth in an economy that has halved in size since 2000.

“Those who naively thought that a revolution took place will be disappointed by the reassertion of power by the military deep state and the attempt to re-establish unity within Zanu-PF, without representation for the youth or opposition,” said Hasnain Malik, head of equity research at Exotix Capital. “For foreign investors who are merely looking for friendlier conditions for their capital the signs remain encouraging.”

Chinamasa oversaw reopening of talks with the International Monetary Fund, allowed more central bank autonomy and used softer language with regard to local ownership laws during his previous stint, Malik said.

SOURCE: bloomberg