HARARE - President Robert Mugabe yesterday tinkered with his “deadwood” Cabinet line-up in a long-mooted move that analysts said was a desperate endeavour by the embattled nonagenarian to manage his ruling Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
As expected, former minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Jonathan Moyo — who had been frozen out of Cabinet for the past two weeks — was shunted to the less influential position of minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.
The move was interpreted by Zanu PF insiders last night as a significant blow to the aspirations of the party’s ambitious Young Turks who go by the moniker Generation 40, and who stand accused of fanning factionalism in the crisis-ridden party and having designs on Mugabe’s and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s positions.
Mugabe also moved Zanu PF secretary for administration and former minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, to the ministry of Home Affairs, which has historically been occupied by the Zapu side of the ruling party.
Chombo’s political rival and Zanu PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere — said to be a close ally of Moyo — was moved from the Water ministry to the Local Government portfolio — which means that the combative youthful minister will have a direct hand in dealing with opposition-dominated urban councils.
Oppah Muchinguri, one of the senior Zanu PF politburo members who led the onslaught against ousted Vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies was removed from the Higher Education ministry to replace Kasukuwere at the lesser influential Environment, Water and Climate post.
Kembo Mohadi, who had been Home Affairs minister for close to a decade, was posted to the vacant portfolio of State Security, in the President’s Office — while surprise package, Nyasha Chikwinya, was given the vacant position of minister of Women’s Affairs that insiders had often speculated was earmarked for the nonagenarian’s wife Grace.
Mugabe also swore in Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri as the new minister of State for Mashonaland East, surprisingly replacing the hapless Biggie Matiza who was only elected the party’s substantive chairperson for the province at the weekend.
While the official word in the dropping of Matiza, said to be an ally of Mnangagwa, was that “he must concentrate on fixing the faction-troubled province”, an insider said it was the work of a “vintage Mugabe to clip the wings of those positioning themselves for life after him”.
Mugabe also gave Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko added responsibilities, with the former diplomat — who is locked in a gruelling tussle for power with Mnangagwa — now also in charge of policy co-ordination and implementation in the President’s Office.
But analysts who spoke to the Daily News last night pooh-poohed Mugabe’s reshuffle, variously describing it as “a damp squib tinkering of deadwood” and a “high-sounding but insignificant exercise that has only silenced the garrulous Moyo”.
Political scientist Maxwell Saungweme said the new appointments were “nothing more than window dressing meant to reward bootlickers and remind all and sundry that Grace is in charge”.
“The reshuffle in short shows how powerful Grace is in terms of succession — rewarding her allies with strategic and powerful posts while giving less powerful portfolios to those that fell out of favour with the First Family recently.
“In terms of performance, nothing much is expected from these over-recycled ministers. Government won’t perform better with all these people. The reshuffle is more to do with Zanu PF power struggles than it is for the performance of government,” Saungweme said.
Another political analyst, Gladys Hlatywayo, said the reshuffle was “a non-event”, adding that it wold not change anything.
“This is a case of old wine in new bottles. Once again the reshuffle is not motivated by performance, but by internal power dynamics. Zimbabwe is in dire need of a competent Cabinet and leadership that can rise to the challenge and put the country on a sound footing, particularly on the economic front,” she said.
Moyo, who has ignited a number of cyber wars with both locals and foreigners in equal measure, was quick to change his Tweeter account yesterday to reflect his new Cabinet responsibilities. He flatly declined to entertain questions from the media about the changes, a sharp contrast to his robust responses when he was Information minister.
Moyo’s world fell apart a fortnight ago when Mugabe ejected him from a Cabinet meeting, saying that since he had contested for the Tsholotsho seat this meant that he was no longer minister — a move that led to much speculation about his political future.
Most surprisingly, Mugabe chose not to replace him with a substantive minister for now, opting to ask relative political greenhorn and Labour minister Elizabeth Mupfumira to act in that position.
While Chikwinya, Mphoko and Mutinhiri were visibly on cloud nine when they were sworn into office yesterday, Moyo looked decidedly indifferent.
A senior Zanu PF official told the Daily News last night that the Cabinet reshuffle had “Mnangagwa’s finger prints through and through”.
“Anyone who says this is anything else but Mnangagwa’s work is delusional as most of these new changes are what he had recommended that the president do after the Zanu PF congress in December.
“To be honest, Jonathan (Moyo) and Kasukuwere were very lucky in the end to survive and he may have compromised on Kasukuwere as the party needs someone combative like him to deal with the MDC in the urban areas, particularly in Harare,” he said.
In the case of Chombo, the official said his new position would not only see him sitting in the Joint Operations Command (Joc), which includes service chiefs, it would also mean that “Mr Big (Chombo) can now also investigate his political enemies in Zanu PF who happen to be in opposing factional baskets”.
In the meantime, speculation continues to rage about who will replace Moyo permanently — with the names of Grace, war veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa, Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira and even Zanu PF legislator and its deputy director of information, Psychology Maziwisa — among those rumoured to be in line.