Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa’s choice of ministers under criticism

New interim Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on after he was officially sworn-in during a ceremony in Harare on November 24, 2017. Zimbabwe's newly sworn-in President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed during his inauguration speech on November 24 to protect foreign investments in the country as he sought to lay out his economic credentials. "In this global world no nation is, can, or need be an island. All foreign investments will be safe in Zimbabwe," he told a crowd of tens of thousands at his inauguration ceremony. / AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN
New interim Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on after he was officially sworn-in during a ceremony in Harare on November 24, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s choice of senior military officials to top posts in his new cabinet has received sharp criticism drawing groans of dismay from many Zimbabweans.

“The deployment of senior members of the military into the cabinet is profoundly shocking,” said Piers Pigou of the Brussels-based think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Their appointment suggests “the army has gained so much influence in government, it is going to start to dominate government,” said Abel Esterhuyse, a strategy professor at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University.

Air Marshal Perrance Shiri was named lands and agriculture minister and Major General Sibusiso Moyo is new the foreign minister. Moyo on November 15 went on state TV to announce the military’s takeover — a power grab which climaxed a week later when Robert Mugabe quit the presidency.

Mnangagwa who was sworn in last Friday retained many faces from the Mugabe regime including Patrick Chinamasa who was named finance minister and Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu.

“The bulk of members of the so called new cabinet is from the old guard,” said University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure.

“It is like recycling dead wood. Essentially, this is like putting old wine in new bottles,” said opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesman Obert Gutu.

Mnangagwa dropped figures aligned to a rival faction in the ruling Zanu-PF party who had backed Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace in a bid to replace her husband.

Analysts say Chinamasa’s return gave hope of positive reforms to the moribund economy. He oversaw the reopening of talks this year with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the easing of the so-called indigenisation policy which had scared away foreign investors.

“We are likely to see economic reforms but very little on the political front,” said Zimbabwean Brian Raftopoulos who heads an advocacy non-profit group the Solidarity Peace Trust.

Zimbabwean citizens interviewed by AFP said they found the new government’s lineup to be uninspiring, even disastrous.

Many are yearning for a clean break from Mugabe’s 37-year rule, which left the country with a crippled economy, high unemployment and emigration, and marred by allegations of rights abuses and election-rigging.

“We thought we are going to have a new Zimbabwe after Mugabe’s fall but it seems there is nothing new. The same failed ministers have been re-appointed. It is sad. We are doomed,” lamented Tererai Moyo, a 37-year-old florist in the capital Harare.

Mnangagwa while delivering his inaugural address last week vowed to make sweeping changes in government and new policies to attract investment and revive the ailing economy.

The 75-year-old president did not include figures from the opposition despite his pledge to a “new and unfolding democracy”.