Robert Mugabe packs 61 people into Cabinet

HARARE – The country may depend on food aid, the currency may be worthless and its people impoverished, but Zimbabwe finalised a bloated Government of 61 ministers yesterday, the biggest executive since independence.\r\n

At a ceremony at State House President Mugabe swore in 20 deputy ministers and four ministers of state, on top of the 33 full ministers and four ministers of state sworn in last week. The total means that the Government has 15 more members than provided for in the Constitution, itself amended two weeks ago to take in the agreement for a coalition Government.

Of particular profligacy are the ministers of state, positions created for disgruntled Zanu (PF) members from the previous administration who had been left out of the new power-sharing executive. They are in effect Cabinet ministers with vague or no responsibilities – but with the offices, salaries, expenses allowances and accommodation that go with the job. Several have already been issued with new E-class Mercedes Benz limousines.

The final tally came a day after a meeting between Mr Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, the Prime Minister and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, and Arthur Mutambara, head of the breakaway MDC faction, to finalise the numbers. “It’s profligate,” said an MDC minister. “But it’s the product of a compromise. It’s like a postwar reconstruction Cabinet.”

Western diplomats gave the outsize Government a cautious welcome. “It’s not the wisest of starts,” said one. “There are basically two parties and some accommodation had to be made. “But it’s not what the Government looks like, it’s what it does. We shall wait and see.”

There was little of the embarrassing public wrangling that took place last week at the swearing-in of the first batch of ministers, when Mr Mugabe surprised everyone by turning up with a list of extra ministers he had not bothered to tell his Prime Minister about. In the end 36 people were sworn in as ministers of various types amid chaotic scenes as President Motlanthe of South Africa frantically tried to sort the mess out.

The increase reveals Mr Mugabe’s inability to check the outrage of members of his old Cabinet – which he referred to last year as “the worst in history” – who had been sidelined by the MDC’s inclusion. Three of the five Zanu (PF) ex-ministers who had to walk disconsolately away from Friday’s swearing-in ceremony were back in power, beaming broadly.

Survivors from the last Government include Didymus Mutasa, now a minister of state in the President’s office, who once welcomed the likelihood of half the population dying of starvation; Emmerson Mnangagwa, now Defence Minister, regarded as the Zanu (PF) party’s corrupt godfather; Sydney Sekeramayi, Minister of State for National Security, who has been in power for three decades; and Joseph Made, author of Zimbabwe’s disastrous land reforms, who returns to the Agriculture Ministry.

Mr Mugabe has managed to manipulate the numbers in the Cabinet to give Zanu (PF) a majority, reversing the former majority held by the two MDCs. This may well hamper the MDC’s plans for big policy changes. Roy Bennett, in line to be Deputy Agriculture Minister, was spending his seventh day in custody on terrorism and sabotage charges.

In comes Robert Mugabe three Ministers of State responsible for the healing process between the three parties in the inclusive government.

Mugabe also sore in three Ministers of State responsible for the healing process between the three parties in the inclusive government.

These are Dr John Nkomo from ZANU-PF, Ms Sekai Holland from MDC-T and Mr Gibson Sibanda from the MDC-M.

He also swore in Cde Flora Bhuka as Minister of State in VP Musika’s office and Cde Syilvester Nguni as Minister of State in VP Mujuru’s office.

The President also swore in the following 19 deputy ministers:
Foreign Affairs – Moses Mzila Ndlovu;
Higher and Tertiary Education – Lutho Addington Tapela;
Health and Child Welfare – Dr Tendai Douglas Mombeshora;
Labour and Social Welfare – Dr Tracy Mutinhiri;
Education, Sports, Arts and Culture – Lazarus Dokora;
Economic Planning and Development – Dr Samuel Undenge;
Energy and Power Development – Hubert Nyanhongo;
State Enterprises and Parastatals – Walter Chidhakwa;
Industry and Commerce – Michael Bimha;
Regional Integration and International Co-operation – Reuben Marumahoko;
Public Works – Aguy Georgias;
Public service – Andrew Langa;
Local Government, Urban and Rural Development – Sisil Zvidzai;
Transport and Infrastructural Development – Dr Tichaona Mudzingwa;
Mines and Mining Development – Murisi Zwizwai;
Media, Information and Publicity – Jameson Timba;
Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment – Thamsanqa Mahlangu;
Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development – Evelyn Masaiti;
Justice and Legal Affairs – Jessie Majome