Saturday, December 2, 2017

Zim leader’s cabinet heavy on military

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa walks

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa walks after taking the oath of office at the national sports stadium on the outskirts of Harare, on November 24, 2017. PHOTO |FILE 

By Christopher Torchia & Farai Mutsaka

Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has appointed a new Cabinet filled with ruling party loyalists and figures linked to the military, whose takeover helped oust former leader Robert Mugabe.

No opposition politicians are included in the list, which has been seen as the first test of whether Mnangwgwa, a longtime Mugabe ally, would move out of his shadow.

The Cabinet picks had been seen as the first test of whether Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe ally, would move out of his shadow.

The 22-member Cabinet announced late Thursday on state-run television includes Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo as foreign minister, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri as agriculture minister and Chris Mutsvangwa, leader of Zimbabwe’s war veterans, as information minister.

Shiri is directly linked to the Matabeleland killings of thousands of people by a North Korea-trained military brigade in the 1980s when Mugabe moved against a political arival.

Moyo on November 15 announced the military takeover that put Mugabe under house arrest and set in motion a national clamor leading to the former president’s resignation after 37 years in power.

Mugabe quit November 21 amid impeachment proceedings. The ruling Zanu-PF party replaced him with Mnangagwa, who was fired weeks ago as one of the country’s vice presidents as Mugabe’s wife, Grace, positioned herself to succeed him.

The list of Cabinet picks makes no mention of vice presidents.

For some Zimbabweans who had hoped that the new leader would make the Cabinet more inclusive, Thursday night’s announcement was seen as a disappointment after they had cheered the military’s takeover and backed the ruling party’s impeachment efforts.

Lawyer Alex Magaisa tweeted a recent photo of Mugabe and his wife laughing with the words “When they saw the new Cabinet.” Former finance minister Tendai Biti tweeted: “The honeymoon is over even before it had begun. What a shame. What a missed opportunity.”

The new Cabinet also retains the cybersecurity ministry that Mugabe created weeks ago to criticism from activists who saw it as part of a crackdown on social media users.

In an interview earlier Thursday with The Associated Press, main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Mnangagwa has a “very small window” to show that he is different from Mugabe and that he is meeting national expectations of change.

Tsvangirai added that there has been “no dialogue” with the new leadership.

On Friday, Mnangagwa said the economically struggling country must modernize in order to engage with a “fiercely competitive” world. He delivered the message at a graduation ceremony west of the capital, Harare. As president, he presides over all of Zimbabwe’s universities.

Mnangagwa said “the world has grown fiercely competitive” and that Zimbabweans must learn to deliver “finished products” to markets and extract the most “profitability” from the country’s natural resources.

Discontent with Zimbabwe’s economy was a factor in Mugabe’s downfall. Industries have collapsed, unemployment is high and cash shortages are rife.

The writers filed this analysis from Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, for The Washington Post

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