Editorial Comment: Let us give new Cabinet a chance
President Emmerson Mnangagwa finally revealed his team of Cabinet ministers on Thursday, ending days of speculation about his team. There were suggestions for the President to go for an inclusive Government although there was no basis for it.
Zanu-PF, as the ruling party, is in a clear majority and therefore doesn’t require outsiders. Most of the calls for an inclusive Government were obviously misplaced and opportunistic.
We were told that the fact opposition political leaders attended President Mnangagwa’s inauguration ceremony on November 24, meant they must be rewarded with positions in his administration. Others claimed the fact that the demonstration on the weekend prior to former President Robert Mugabe’s resignation involved people across the political divide and even others who had nothing to do with politics was a sufficient indicator that Zimbabweans wanted an inclusive Government.
This is no more than wishful thinking.
There is no doubt peace and unity are key requirements for national development. We are also aware that politicians and their parties and religious organisations can play a key role in promoting peace and unity in the country.
What we don’t understand is why that noble role should be predicated on them getting positions in Government. Isn’t it their civic duty as citizens to promote peace and unity from their various stations?
President Mnangagwa lived up to his pledge to reduce the size of his Cabinet as part of efforts to reduce Government expenditure. It now has 22 ministers, and includes a number of new faces, and a sprinkling of women in the interest of gender representation, and the disabled too and war veterans. Academics too have a voice.
But that he tried to cast his net as wide as possible has not appeased the perennial cynics and critics of Zanu-PF. It is common cause, though, that you cannot please everybody. That is because interests and agendas differ. Yet two things must guide the debate about Cabinet appointments.
The first is a constitutional one; it is the President’s prerogative to appoint and disappoint whoever he wants. There are many reasons for this, chief among them the President’s strategic vision for the nation. He must select people with whom he can easily work with as a team to achieve that vision. This cannot be done through opportunistic political accommodation.
We also have to bear in mind that President Mnangagwa does not have a lot of time on his hands to spend haggling over ideological issues with party officials who hold a different worldview. Similarly, technocrats coming from outside the system will require a lot of time to acclimatise instead of delivering results.
That could explain why the President has steered clear of a troubling mentality found in African politics; the tendency to view things almost in black and white. President Mnangagwa is accused of taking a number of ministers from the previous administration of former President Robert Mugabe. His critics advocate something called a “clean break” with the previous administration.
But common sense teaches us of the importance of continuity and institutional memory. Moreover, President Mnangagwa is not from the opposition with its outlandish agendas influenced from outside. He is part of a team out to rejuvenate Zanu-PF to better run the country. He stressed at his inauguration last week that it would not be business as usual in his administration. He can’t therefore set himself up for failure by selecting so-called deadwood.
Moreover, if we go by the theory that a team’s performance is as good its leader, President Mnangagwa has already hit the ground running, showing he means business. He has reduced the days of the Zanu-PF’s Special Congress set for next week so that people can focus on resolving the many challenges facing the nation. The number of delegates and funding have also been reduced.
He has started tackling the scourge of corruption, considered one of the major deterrents to investment. People want to invest in a country where they will get a full return on their money and will not be required to pay kickbacks to individuals.
This is a positive message to both potential investors and locals.
In short, let us give the new administration the benefit of the doubt. It should be judged by its performance or lack thereof, instead its association with the previous administration. But, more importantly, every one of us has a role to play. It’s not a spectator sport where people stand aside to pick out faults.