And so it is; ten ministers have been reassigned, with eight new coming in, while some have been dropped. What does this new Cabinet setup tell us about the intentions of the powers that be? In trying to comprehend the new architecture of Cabinet, one should be guided by the terms of references that triggered its need.
In announcing the intention to effect Cabinet changes last weekend, President Mugabe said: “We must also look at ourselves and say to yourselves, have we, all of us co-operated together or there are some among us who, although they were given positions . . . have not done well.
“We will look at the party, as well as government to see if the same was happening and . . . we might see some changes in government”. It is, therefore, apparent that President Mugabe was mainly looking at performance and productivity as the key criteria, and to ideally come up with a team that can bring a fresh impetus to the economy which is currently battling a number of challenges.
In light of the above, it can be only implied that the likes of Prisca Mupfumira, Tshinga Dube et al, who have been dropped, have not been performing well, in the eyes of the appointing authority. It also implies that those who kept their positions have worked well in the eyes of the powers that be.
If performance and productivity of ministers are the key expectations of the new Cabinet, can we expect it to come from the new setup or it’s just a classical case of changing actors to read the same script. Is the new cabinet going to have a different script to make the movie exciting to watchers?
Remember time is not on its side. This new Cabinet only has; at most, eight months before the general elections come, assuming that they will be held in August.
While time may not allow us to look at all the new appointments, the spotlight will be beamed on changes that have been effected in the economic ministries to interrogate their efficacy.
The move to appoint Honourable Ignatius Chombo as the new Treasury chief is one that obviously came as a shock to the market, obviously not because this is the first time in nearly a decade for someone who is not a lawyer to take the reins of the Finance and Economic Development ministry. This ministry is very key to the economy and whoever is appointed to head it will be naturally subject to public scrutiny. Minister Chombo’s appointment comes at a time when Treasury is in the midst of crafting the 2017 National Budget which will be announced in a matter of weeks. Will Chombo be acquainted to the tools to play around with between now and then?
Interestingly, this will be his only national budget before the term of government expires.
It would be fair for one to ask whether it was really important to remove Patrick Chinamasa from this ministry in this season, or just let him finish everything that he had started, given how time may not allow Chombo to start from scratch.
While Chombo has years of experience in government, he has often times been oscillating between social and political ministries and his new assignment will certainly raise market eyebrows.
As someone who will also have to liaise with different economic stakeholders such as the IMF, private sector, the international community at large as well as the Diaspora, Chombo is expected to remove the “hard-liner” hat that some say he wears and be liberal to some extent.
The market would also want to know whether Minister Chombo would follow the same path that his predecessor Patrick Chinamasa was following. For example, Chinamasa funded some of government’s projects through issuing Treasury Bills, part of the reason why the country has the huge gap between bank balances and available cash, and the market would want to know if he will use the same methods.
Minister Chinamasa has also received a lot of flak for engaging international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank so it will be interesting to see what path Minister Chombo will take.
While the appointment of Simbarashe Mumbengegwi as Macroeconomic Planning and Investment Promotion minister might be viewed by some as awkward, it might also make a positive impact. Mumbengegwi has been Foreign Affairs minister for a long time and has got key contacts across the world that he can take advantage of to drive investment into the country.
He is also a moderate and level-headed individual who can make fruitful engagements using his years of diplomatic experience. The same goes for the new Foreign Affairs minister, Walter Mzembi, whom we think will certainly do well in improving the country’s relations with the rest of the world, to ensure that the country’s economy can benefit from such relations. Mzembi had a very glorious tenure in his previous appointment as Minister of Tourism and Hospitality.
Appointing Chiratidzo Mabuwa as Youth, Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister is not a bad decision. Mabuwa has been very hard-working even as deputy minister of industry and commerce and we have no doubt that, she can also bring the same energy and rationality to the new portfolio. The bundling of the youth portfolio with indigenisation and economic empowerment is however still awkward.
In retaining Mike Bimha as the Industry and International Trade minister, the appointing authority is probably still convinced that he is doing a good job. However, Bimha should really pull up his socks to foster accelerated industrial growth. More dynamism and creativity is certainly needed in this portfolio to unlock its full potential.
We also expect the same from Patrick Zhuwao who becomes Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister. This portfolio requires an individual who is not controversial when it comes to articulating government policy.
Given how 95 percent of budget revenue goes to remuneration of people that fall under this ministry, we expect him to take a progressive approach in his engagements.
We remember his previous clash with former finance minister Chinamasa when he was still heading the youth, indigenisation and economic portfolio when they were interpreting policy differently. A radical approach in Zhuwao’s new portfolio may not work as it may only trigger needless labour unrest.
Just like Minister Chombo, Minister Zhuwawo would also need to assure the market that he is going to handle NSSA in a way that will protect pensioner’s interests. What of civil sector reforms? Minister Zhuwawo was the biggest antagonist against retrenchments, but now that he will have in-depth knowledge of whats happening, will he maintain the same stance?
While the new Cabinet is expected to enhance the performance and productivity of the economy and government operations, it will also take political will for it to operate effectively. In light of the above, issues such as factionalism and succession battles that are happening in the ruling party should not be allowed to stand in the way of the new members of Cabinet in their quest to do their jobs.