It's Business as Usual Mr President!

It will be very unfair to compare President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the current Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli. This is so in the sense that the two African countries face different problems at the moment.

For Magufuli he has proved his critics wrong by introducing sweeping reforms in his government that has even forced his doomsayers to acknowledge that its indeed no longer business as usual. On the other hand, Mnangagwa is presently seized with the mammoth task of managing relations within ZANU PF and ensuring that he does not disappoint those who helped him ascend to the highest throne in the land.

What is rather interesting about these two Presidents is that they all belong to political parties that have been in power for a long time and the founding fathers of their parties (Mugabe and Nyerere) are both credited for their stance on the need for black empowerment. When Magufuli took over Presidency in 2015, Tanzania was burdened with a myriad of problems that include ghost workers in the civil service and corruption by officials connected to his party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi among other ills. But today he has made steady progress in addressing these problems.

Coincidentally President Mnangagwa inherited a government burdened by rampant corruption, poor economic policies and in some instances gross incompetence by those in government. In the case of Magufuli, his current tenure has brought a lot of positives and incremental gains for Tanzania. He has implemented sweeping reforms and has managed to reconfigure the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.

The thousands of people who took heed to the call by the war veterans to stage a march against former president, Mugabe, had hoped that the new president was going to lead a new era that would see a departure from the old way of running a government. Most people criticized Mugabe’s administration of recycling deadwood which he interchangeably rotated among government ministries for his own parochial interests. In Mugabe’s era there are Ministries whose actual mandate was never known by the public, a clear example is the Psychomotor Ministry that was led by Josiah Hungwe. In my view such a practice by Mugabe forced citizens to lose trust and confidence in certain Ministries. Rather than have confidence in such Ministries, citizens would make jokes out of the Ministers appointed by Mugabe. Even his cabinet reshuffle did not even reflect “reshuffling” but was just a cheap way used to coerce his lieutenants to continue supporting him.

However, on 1 December 2017, the nation awoke to the news that President Mnangagwa had announced his long awaited cabinet. From the day he was inaugurated, the new President in my view had hit the ground running by implementing cost cutting measures that even saw him missing the inauguration of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He even refused to have the expensive Mercedes Benz used by Mugabe as part of his motorcade. For a moment I concurred with his supporters that the President was on the right path.

His latest cabinet is uninspiring, seems like a return to the old day of the Mugabe era and is not in tandem with his earlier calls on rebuilding the country. Most of the Ministers in the new cabinet presided over corrupt activities and still owe citizens an explanation. The new cabinet has also seen the inclusion of military personnel who have taken up two key ministries (Agriculture and Foreign Affairs respectively). Whether the military personnel have a proven track record of competency remains to be seen and is the subject for another day.

My greatest disappointment with the new cabinet is the lack of inspiration from some of the appointed Ministers. In my view, the new cabinet seems to be a reward by the President of his allies who over the years advanced his bid to succeed former president Mugabe. What is even frustrating is the fact that some of the old cabinet ministers reappointed have long gone past their expiry date. Was the new cabinet not supposed to be made up of new faces who have enthusiasm and energy to work? Even the omission of someone hardworking like Mayor Justice Wadyajena is shocking given the sterling work he did when he was chairing the Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Youth and Indigenization. Former Ministers of Youth Saviour Kasukuwere and Patrick Zhuwawo dreaded appearing before the committee where they knew that the committee was tough on issues of transparency and accountability.

It even baffles the mind why the president opted to even combine the Ministry of Women affairs and Youth given that the two Ministries are diverse and require special attention. Even the age of the new Minister Sithembiso Nyoni is even an insult to the ordinary youth. Citizens expected that the President was going to go the Magufuli way and implement sweeping reforms firstly by appointing new and capable ministers in his cabinet so that there is some semblance of a “new era”.

With all due respect to Ambassador Khaya Moyo, isn’t the Energy Ministry too big for him given that his recent deployments have been around the Information portfolio and then economic planning. I can go on and analyse each ministry and highlight loopholes and gaps. In any democracy, the success of any Ministry is dependent on citizens’ confidence in the minister leading that particular Ministry. I am totally aware that there are permanent secretaries within the various Ministries who do the majority of the work but the contribution and innovation by Ministers is key and must not be overlooked. In our case, the crop of the redeployed ministers in the new cabinet have proved over a long time that they are unable to run ministries effectively and even is some cases looted public funds for self-enrichment.

The new cabinet by the President in my view is a contradiction to his recent calls to have a corrupt free country and quality service delivery. What can the recycled Ministers bring that is new and has innovation? What is important to note is that there are some faces within his new cabinet that are detested by many because of gross incompetence and corruption. For example, Ministers like Obert Mpofu have been implicated in corruption scandals even under the Mugabe administration.
In the final analysis, there are some who have argued that permanent secretaries within the various ministries are hardworking and overshadow the incompetent Ministers. It remains to be seen whether the new ministers will reform and change for the better. As for me it seems like business as usual.

Rawlings Magede is a rural political enthusiast from Gokwe-Kana who writes in his personal capacity. He tweets @rawedges and contactable on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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