Understanding the new Cabinet

The talk of town is the character, temperament and level of skills in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first Cabinet.

This shows rising civic awareness and that can only be a good thing. It also means President Mnangagwa will, quite correctly, come under much scrutiny as he steers Zimbabwe out of economic malaise and to better fortunes.

That there is much groaning about the Cabinet points to the fact that we have for too long been held under by personality-driven politics.

Inasmuch as we decry the cult of personality, we still find ourselves hostage to elevating personalities above national perspective. That is why our position is that the Cabinet appointed last week is in fact a good thing for Zimbabwe.

In its make-up and outlook, we see a programme-driven Cabinet as opposed to a personality-driven one. Much of the work ahead will lie in four ministries: Finance and Economic Planning; Foreign Affairs and International Trade; Lands, Agriculture, and Rural Resettlement; and Mines and Mining Development.

Firstly, people should stop seeing Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri as the Air Marshal. He is not an airman, but rather the “groundman” who long left his gun for a hoe, who has set aside the airfield for the maize field.

Minister Shiri’s appointment formalises a role he has been playing – along with Mr Justin Mupamhanga – of driving Command Agriculture.

Zimbabwe’s economy has for the past year survived on commodities produced by Command Agriculture, and that the concept has been widened to include crops other than maize and cotton, as well as water and livestock speaks of the success of the programme-driven approach.

The Sunday Mail can authoritatively state that one of Cde Robert Mugabe’s last acts as President was to block a G40 attempt to dismantle Command Agriculture, because it was clear that the programme-driven approach to national economic planning was the way to go. The nation can thus expect to see more programme-based planning and implementation from this Cabinet.

President Mnangagwa as said as much, pointing out in his inaugural address that agro-led recovery would be the hallmark of his administration.

Which is not to say other areas will be neglected. A key facet of the new Cabinet is the creation of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Minister Sibusiso B Moyo’s to head that brief.

This points to a reworking of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy from just being driven by politics to it being driven by trade and economy issues.

We are going to see our foreign missions being judged more on the basis of economic pursuits rather than just establishing good political relations with other countries.

That could also, in all likelihood, point to a reduction in the number of embassies we have as missions are consolidated to focus on trade issues within regions. Of course, strategic missions will not be closed or merged; but we shall certainly see reorganisation on that front for greater – and measurable – trade and economic diplomacy. What people may not know is the Minister SB Moyo has done doctoral work in international relations, and that he has been quite instrumental in establishing economic ties with Russia and China. So expect to see deepening of practical ties with the rising centres of global capital.

While looking East, the nation should also be aware of an ongoing prickly mating of porcupines as Zimbabwe and the West reengage. That is where Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s brief of Finance and Economic Planning comes in. Minister Chinamasa has already done much work by way of the Lima Plan, and we should look forward to either a revival of that initiative or its reworking.

This is not an overnight endeavour by any means, and the continuity that Minister Chinamasa brings in this pursuit will be vital.

The green shoots of normalised ties are already there, and the UK’s Boris Johnson among others can attest to this.

So while Minister SB Moyo drives the Foreign Affairs and International Trade agenda, Minister Chinamasa continues with the slow but necessary dance with the West.

And then there is what has happened at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. President Mnangagwa has taken Mr Winston Chitando out of the private sector to head a brief that is crucial to Zimbabwe’s economic performance.

Minister Chitando is a hard-nosed, dyed in the wool mining executive who also knows how to run his own private gold businesses.

From a political perspective, the appointment allays fears about indigenisation. President Mnangagwa has already ordered that the indigenisation law be amended, and bringing in one of the private sector’s foremost miners to Government speaks volumes about the intentions for that aspect of national economic planning.

Beyond the politics, the nation should expect quick returns from gold, first, and then other minerals and metals in the medium-term.

Gold provides quick revenues and can also securitise any necessary borrowings. In a nutshell, what we have is a pragmatic and programmatic Cabinet as opposed to a personality-driven one that looks good on paper but cannot deliver.

The onus is on President Mnangagwa to oversee creation of the appropriate programme-driven policy framework, for the ministers to diligently implement the policies and programmes, and for all of us to advance national revival by putting in an honest shift in our varied spheres.

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