COLUMN: MARY REVESAI
Cabinet reshuffle a mockery
Following the announcement of his new cabinet last week, Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe has taunted the nation in all forms and senses of the word listed above. He has in essence, poked long-suffering Zimbabweans in the eyes with his finger and declared : “I can do whatever I want and there is nothing you can do about it.”
The Zimbabwean leader is notorious for surrounding himself with people who are beholden to him, who tell him only what he wants to hear, hence the necessity for him to recycle the same old deadwood whenever he undertakes a cabinet reshuffle.
As speculation became rife in the last few weeks that a reshuffle was imminent, nobody expected anything new, despite the fact that Mugabe himself had occasionally complained about the inefficiency and ineptitude of some of his ministers. He memorably complained on one occasion last year that he was surrounded by thieves who were bent on becoming filthy rich in unacceptable ways.
Through his latest cabinet reshuffle, Mugabe has outdone even himself in showing contempt for the taxpayers whose sweat makes it possible to have a national fiscus to fund the operations of government. It is one thing for the Zimbabwean leader to enable his sycophantic ministers and officials to keep their sinecures but it is quite another to mock the people of Zimbabwe in the process.
Mugabe was impervious to the outcry over one of his most inept ministers, Joseph Made, for a long time but in the end even he had to concede that the strategic Ministry of Agriculture needed to be headed by someone who at least had a clue as to what the portfolio entailed.
But to remove the ineffectual Made from agriculture and then create a totally redundant ministry just to keep him on the gravy train is to show contempt for the people. As Minister of Agriculture, Made should have been competent enough to oversee all aspects of the portfolio, including Agricultural Engineering and Mechanisation, which has been fragmented to create a new ministry
Moreover, if the appointment of Rugare Gumbo to take over from Made as Agriculture Minister is supposed to represent an improvement in efficiency and grasp of all issues pertaining to farming, he should be able to oversee the mechanisation and engineering aspects under the same portfolio. The creation of a new ministry just to keep the inept Made employed when his administration is already bloated represents one more bottomless pit into which tax dollars must be poured with no benefits accruing to the nation.
Made’s new outfit will exacerbate the burden on the taxpayer of a burgeoning bureaucracy that only serves to create jobs for the beneficiaries of the ruling party’s vast patronage network. No one knows exactly what Made’s new ministry will be doing although some cynics have wondered whether it will have something to do with looting tractors and other equipment from farms compulsorily acquired by the government!
Remember Made and other politicians from Manicaland were implicated in the pillaging of equipment from Kondozi Farm and were allowed to get away with the scandal with impunity. Any other leader would have done all in his power to avoid insinuating approval for this sort of corruption by rewarding one of the culprits. To add insult to injury, the man replacing Made, Rugare Gumbo, is being plucked away from his old portfolio when he is supposed to be spearheading the recovery of the tottering economy through the so-called National Economic and Development Priority Programme (NEDPP).
And speaking of corruption, the latest cabinet reshuffle has demonstrated beyond doubt that despite all the hype, the government’s so-called anti-corruption crusade is nothing but a smokescreen to enable the ruling elites to plunder national resources with impunity. Since the setting up of the Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies Ministry about three years ago, law enforcers have trawled the shallow waters for the small fish but have steered clear of the big sharks who are wreaking havoc even after they have been implicated in corrupt activities such as illegal mining, multiple farm ownership, the Zisco scandal and many other rackets.
The first Minister to head the portfolio, Didymus Mutasa, was reshuffled in 2005 without having scored a single success in netting powerful culprits from the public sector. His successor , Paul Mangwana, who has now been moved to the Ministry of Indigenisation and Empowerment will only be remembered for organising workshops and jingles to create awareness about corruption, which is self-evident even to a child. And now Samuel Undenge will have his turn to pretend to be dealing with corruption. By the time he too is reshuffled, the portfolio will have been in existence for perhaps six years, without delivering any results.
The existence of this ministry is a mockery and is designed to lead Zimbabweans up the garden path. If the President was serious about allowing incumbents get on with the job, he would not tolerate a situation where a new minister with nothing to build on was starting over every few years. The charade enables Mugabe to claim that his government is tackling corruption when in fact the Anti-Corruption minister is in reality a facilitator of high level corruption in that he is ordered to steer clear of influential and powerful wrongdoers.
Zimbabweans are in fact being forced to pay for the creation of more “jobs for the boys” in a ministry which despite assuming the veneer of a crusader is a cover-up for corruption in high places. It only serves to shield the big fish from prosecution for their greed and avarice. Any leader who still had a semblance of respect for the intelligence of the generality of his people, would have thought twice about making some of the provocative appointments and changes he announced last week.
It is now generally accepted in the capital that a reshuffle was resorted to all only to deal with the apparent resignation of former Finance minister Hebert Murerwa, whose straightforward acceptance would have paused a threat to Mugabe’s ego. An elaborate subterfuge had to be dreamt up to create the false impression that Murerwa had been sacked.
It is a mockery of the whole concept of government, I say, if a head of state cannot be honest and upfront about something as basic as resignations from his cabinet. What else are we being duped about? There is already an outcry from observers and commentators over the suitability of Samuel Mumbengegwi, the man chosen to succeed Murerwa as Finance Minister. The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, has however never been known to pay any attention to public sensibilities and opinion.
Soon after making what can only be viewed as an attempt to hide the fact that Murerwa had thrown in the towel voluntarily, Mugabe told the media: “It’s a modification and we are trying to look at points that are needed to strengthen, the strengthening of the cabinet, the re-invigorating of the cabinet for 2007. It’s a new year and therefore we need a bit of new blood in the cabinet.”
What a jeering remark to force down the throats of the people of Zimbabwe!
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her column will appear here every Tuesday
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