A Cabinet that’s fit for purpose

The 2018 harmonised elections campaign period brought with it a fair share of characters seeking public office. There are those that turned the political arena into a circus. In fact, clowns emerged.

#1890 Freedom Movement co-leaders Mrs Violet Mariyacha and Dr Francis Danha claimed to be spiritual mediums — Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi.
The duo further said they were destined to take Zimbabwe into a new revolution, reminiscent of the Second Chimurenga, but camouflaged in some form they failed to explain.

Another interesting character was Engineer Peter Munyanduri of the New Patriotic Front (NPF).The Engineer vowed with a serious and confident face that once elected President, his government would provide a balanced diet for each Zimbabwean, which includes an egg, bacon and milk at every breakfast.

But the vocal Engineer also had another world view with regard the selection of Cabinet ministers and their deputies.

“This habit of a system that limits the President to choosing ministers and deputy ministers from a pool of Members of Parliament, the majority of whom are not experts, should stop,” said Eng Munyanduri in an interview with The Sunday Mail during the campaign period.

“My government will ensure the legislators’ first task is to amend the National Constitution so that I have powers to choose ministers from both inside and outside Parliament.

“We need ministers who head a portfolio to which they are experts.

“What logic is it to have business people, who are the bulk of our Members of Parliament; who use money from their business ventures to lure votes, be appointed for example Minister of Science and Technology?

“The President should have power to appoint from elsewhere an industrialist, engineer, scientist, agronomist, medical doctor, journalist to be a minister in a portfolio of their profession, because in most cases, these professionals shy away from the hassles of campaigning to be in Parliament.”

People might have dismissed Eng Munyanduri for his egg, beacon and milk stance, which is a ‘brilliant vision’ along the mantra of spaghetti roads and bullets trains, but not a seller for now.

However, Munyanduri might have had a point on amending the Constitution to allow selection of more ministers from outside Parliament.

The national Constitution narrows the appointment of ministers and their deputies to Parliament with the President only able to choose five ministers outside the legislative assembly.

Section 104 (3) provides that; “Ministers and deputy ministers are appointed from among Senators or Members of the National Assembly, but up to five, chosen for their professional skills and competence, may be appointed from outside Parliament”

In the event that the President chooses up to five members from outside Parliament; Section 104 (5) states that; “Ministers and deputy ministers who are who are not Members of Parliament may sit and speak, but not vote, in the Senate and National Assembly.”

It is a result of such a ‘‘rigid’’ system that it can be argued the President has limited options in coming up with the ‘‘best team’’ in Government.

Former President Mr Robert Mugabe is on record trashing one of his Cabinets, whose tenure ended in 2008, saying, “This cabinet that I had was the worst in history. They look at themselves. They are unreliable . . .”

Could the utterances by Mr Mugabe have been a clear sign of frustration over the limited selection basket?

Zanu PF is currently in celebratory mood after winning elections a fortnight ago and attaining a two thirds majority in Parliament — numbers needed for safe passage of any Constitutional amendment.

The ruling party’s Presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa polled 2,460,463 votes which accounted for 50, 8 percent.

Second in the race was Mr Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance with 2,147,436 votes, at 44, 3 percent of voters.

21 other Presidential candidates amassed about five percent of the voters in total.

But of major interest was that the revolutionary party garnered 145 National Assembly seats while the MDC Alliance attained 63 seats, with the NPF and an independent candidate getting one seat each.

It is the ruling party’s majority that should be its arsenal in ensuring constructive and positive pieces of legislation are formulated.

The excitement of dominance in Parliament should not turn out to be an abuse of the august House.

In fact, it must be used wisely and ensure the President has a legal option to select his team from a wider base of Zimbabweans among other laws that need refining.

The President-elect has been preaching the need to attend to economics ahead of politics.

This vision can only be achieved with a team of ministers who are rewarded for their skills and expertise rather than gyrating to political songs during rallies and crafting slogans.

In fact, President Mnangagwa during his visit to China in April this year told members of the Communist Party of China that, “In my party we say if someone makes a slogan, we give him a post. That must be a thing of the past.”

This position should be embraced by all and sundry that want to see Zimbabwe prosper and being taken seriously outside its borders.

It is time to live to the realities that some people are gifted in politics, others in economic and not many in both.

The legislators in the Ninth Parliament have been presented a chance to make history and champion positive laws for generations to come.

It is not a matter of being ‘‘selfish’’ and electing to ensure the status quo remains so that legislators double dip from Parliament and also in Government, but the President must pick from the best.

In the United States system, the law stipulates in black and white that no legislator can be appointed to any other office including that of secretary/minister. Such pieces of legislation are there to ensure individuals dedicate themselves fully to single tasks.

History shows that ministers in Zimbabwe have been burdened with a number of duties and in cases failing to attend, for instance, to Parliament business as they are engaged in party activities.

Complains are bound from opposition legislators that Ministers fail to attend to the weekly question and answer sessions.It can be argued that by divorcing ministers from parliament, the legislative assembly can also practise its oversight role on the executive more efficiently.

Currently ministers account to legislators, whom they are also part, and this erodes the public confidence in the legislature to hold the executive responsible for its action.

With Zimbabweans waiting for a ‘‘working Cabinet’’ it is prudent to digest Eng Munyanduri’s views on selection of ministers.

The engineer might have his brilliant ideas of what Zimbabwean should be eating after about 50 years, but his immediate take on ministerial appointments should not be dismissed as hogwash.

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