The first post-Independence Cabinet probably holds the record for being the most youthful in country’s history.
This was inevitable as the liberation war was largely fought by young cadres. They — most of whom were in their late teens, 20s, 30s into the early 40s — had to quickly take off their military fatigues to put on executive suits to lead the country they had just liberated.
President Mnangagwa was 38 when he was appointed into that Cabinet as Minister of State Security. Cde Edgar Tekere was 43, Dr Eddison Zvobgo two years older and Cde Herbert Ushewokunze was 47 while Cde Enos Nkala was a year older. The seniors were Dr Joshua Nkomo, the Home Affairs Minister who was 63, Dr Simon Muzenda the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister who was 58 and Cde Robert Mugabe, the Prime Minister who was 56. The youngest in that Cabinet was Mrs Joice Mujuru who was only 25.
Indeed, there was no one else to take up the immense responsibility of leading their country at that time so the youthful and inexperienced team had to learn on the job.
It should have been an energetic Cabinet, also full of ideas to take the newly-independent country to greater heights to the satisfaction of the expectant masses in those heady days.
Upon taking office in November 2017 to complete the last eight months or so of the First Republic, President Mnangagwa basically maintained the Cabinet that was in place, but made it clear that he wanted more energy at the top level of Government. With his own mandate after the elections last year, he fulfilled that pledge when he appointed very young figures as ministers. He picked Cdes Mangaliso Ndlovu (38) to head the Industry and Commerce portfolio and Kirsty Coventry (then 35) to the Sports Ministry. As a starting point and given that many factors are considered when appointing a Cabinet — geographical representation, personal experience of the appointee, gender, and so on — the entry of young hands into that rung of national governance was good. While flexibility tends to be limited at that level, there is more of it at deputy minister level where the President picked many young figures to learn the ropes for possible future promotion.
Cde Vangelis Peter Haritatos (33) was appointed as Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Culture and Rural Resettlement, Cde Polite Kambamura (42) is the Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Cde Energy Mutodi, (41) is the Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services while Cde Jenfan Muswere (38) served as Deputy Minister of Information Communication and Courier Services.
On Friday, the President went a step further in bringing young cadres into more influential roles in Government when he promoted Cde Muswere to head the ministry he had worked in as deputy while Cde Dingimuzi Phuti (39) replaces him. Other new faces that are young that rose on Friday to be deputy ministers include Cdes David Musabayana (38, Foreign Affairs and International Trade), Tinoda Machakaire (36, Sport) and Yeukai Simbanegavi (41) who was moved from the Ministry of Sport to National Housing and Social Amenities.
We can estimate, looking at the appointments that were made soon after elections last year and those that were made on Friday, that there are about nine deputy ministers who are 42 years old and younger and about three ministers who are 38 years and younger.
This is abundant evidence that the President is all ears to the persistent calls by youths for greater representation in more senior Government and party roles in the country.
Youths have often used their energy to campaign for their party and their seniors at party level. After being instrumental in the victories of their seniors, the young cadres tended to continue to serve in the junior ranks in the party. In a few cases in the past, their youthful exuberance has landed them in trouble after they got accused of engaging in political violence.
However, happily for them President Mnangagwa is putting across the message that the young party faithful are not just useful when they campaign for their party and or for their seniors but are equally useful as more senior members not only in their party, but also of the Government.
Youths must be gratified that their ideas, energy, loyalty and patriotism are valued by the powers-that-be, thus must be encouraged to work harder, to show their ability for they stand an equal chance of being appointed to higher positions in the party and Government.
Just as the liberation war was fought by young people who went on to form the core of the first post-Independence Cabinet; young people of today must be assured that they have a role to play in the political governance of their country including at very senior levels.
We challenge the new youthful appointees who were sworn in yesterday to justify President Mnangagwa’s faith in them.