The appointment of senior Zimbabwean military officials for top cabinet positions by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has drawn mixed reactions from the public.
The new president who was sworn into office last week after a military takeover, on Friday December 1 named among others, Major-General Sibusiso Moyo who announced the November 15 military takeover as the country’s new foreign minister.
The appointment has been viewed by many as the president’s reward to the military for its role in the removal of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
Air marshal Perrance Shiri was also handed the sensitive land portfolio.
The portfolio is deemed sensitive and economically crucial following land reforms started by former president Robert Mugabe in 2000 which led to violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms and the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy.
Shiri, a former commander of the north Korean-trained ‘5 Brigade’ that played a central role in the 1983 Matabeleland massacre which killed over 20,000 people, is reportedly feared and loathed by many Zimbabweans.
“The cabinet is uninspiring,” opposition Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Obert Gutu told the Reuters news agency. “It has got obviously also a significant number of the military component,” he added.
Gutu likened the newly constituted cabinet to “putting old wine in new bottles. It is like showing the reverse side of the same coin.”
He explained that there was no “fundamental shift from the old order from the former president, Robert Mugabe.”
But Gutu is not alone. A Harare resident who spoke to the Reuters news agency said: “It was always going to be the norm that he (Mnangagwa) will appoint his lieutenants, those who took him to power. Because what they actually did is a coup.”
The cabinet is however not made up of only military officials. Former Mugabe era minister, Patrick Chinamasa who was finance minister since 2013 until a reshuffle this year, was reappointed by Mnangagwa to head the finance ministry despite his chequered record at the ministry.
Allies of Grace Mugabe however have not been given any positions even though many Mugabe loyalists from the ruling Zanu-PF party have been brought back.
Many Zimbabweans are disappointed with the appointment of some Mugabe loyalists.
“There are so many Zimbabweans and others who were expecting changes from this government,” said Denford Ngadziore, “but the good part of it, the Mnangagwa led government, have proved to Zimbabweans that there is nothing to ffer and as we are geared for 2018 elections, I think it’s very clear that people need to register in masses to vote Zanu-PF out”.
Political analyst Alphonce Mbwizo is however optimistic the new ‘loyalty rewards cabinet’ can make a difference.
“It’s a cabinet that could perform if they take away the shackles from the previous regime. We think it’s a cabinet that can move Zimbabwe forward even though for a short time before the elections. We think it’s also a loyalty rewards cabinet.”
President Mnangagwa on Friday publicly defended his appointments at a university graduation ceremony south of the capital Harare.
“As we engage the world, it is of great importance to have our own home-grown solutions to develop our economy and benchmark ourselves on the best in the global village,” the president said.
With about 7 months to elections, Mnangagwa’s administration is expected to bring the country’s economy back on track, patch up relations with donors and work out a deal to clear the country’s $1.8 billion arrears to the World Bank and African Development Bank.