PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s warning yesterday he will root out internal saboteurs plotting to incite an anti-government uprising brought even closer a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle which will inevitably be driven by the ruling Zanu PF factionalism and succession dynamics, as well as capacity, performance and delivery issues, informed insiders have said.
The insiders — who have been talking about the reshuffle for some time — said the growing economic crisis, characterised by looming shortages of basic commodities and fuel, liquidity crunch and cash scarcity, would be a major factor in the reshuffle.
Given the deteriorating economic situation, Mugabe is likely to act in a bid to save the country from the brink of economic and financial chaos as the liquidity crunch, cash shortages and currency volatility intensify.
However, insiders say his scope and latitude of action are limited by internal dynamics and next year’s coming general elections. While he would like to shift and remove those he views as disloyal and even treacherous, Mugabe’s leverage would be weakened by electoral considerations.
“That the cabinet reshuffle is coming any time from now is clear; what is not clear is who will be shifted, reshuffled or removed because that is the constitutional and legal prerogative of the President and him alone, no one else,” a senior official in the Office of the President and Cabinet told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday.
“We can only speculate on the names from a positioning of limited information, but the reasons for the reshuffle are clear. The reshuffle is now coming because of what is happening in government and the (ruling) party with regards to divisions and disunity; factionalism and infighting over succession paralysing government. That has to be addressed. Then there is the economic situation, particularly what has been happening in the past week when the president was away at the United Nations General Assembly summit in New York. The economy has taken a nosedive, and the president has, among other factors, identified the problem of internal economic saboteurs as he said when he came back on Monday and also yesterday.”
Addressing mourners during the burial of Gogo Maria Msika at the National Heroes Acre yesterday, Mugabe said he was aware of the hidden hand behind the recent dramatic price hikes and panic buying, suggesting it was an internal job by “some of us.”
“These are like Biblical Judas Iscariot who Jesus talked about during the last supper that he will betray him. We have such people in our midst, but we should uproot and shame them. They want regime change, but I am saying I was given the mandate to rule by the people so I am vacating the post,” Mugabe said.
“As I am occupying this post, let us all be alert at all times and guard against detractors. We want Gogo Msika to go and tell his husband that we are still ruling. These detractors will never succeed; we have eyes to see all they are trying to do.”
Insiders said ministries likely to see changes include Justice, Information and War Veterans. Others under the spotlight entail Education, Higher Education, Local Government, Finance, Transport, Energy and Mines.
“We are likely to see changes at Justice, Information and War Veterans ministries,” another official said. “With all things being equal, there might also be changes Education, Higher Education, Local Government, Transport, Energy and Mines because of certain situations and events that happened there since the last reshuffle in September 2015. But then again the current politics and dynamics will not allow wholesale changes, hence you might find that most of these ministers will survive.”
If changes are made at Justice, that means Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa will no longer be in charge of that portfolio, although he might maintain an oversight role over a number of other ministries — Agriculture, Lands, Tourism, Education, Mines, Public Service, Health, Sports and Small-to- Medium Enterprises — while co-Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko could remain in charge of security ministries — state security, defence and home affairs – and Transport, Foreign Affairs, Indigenisation, Youth, Women, Local Government and Information.
The official said Mugabe is likely to whittle down Mnangagwa’s powers and influence given the public fallout between them over the succession issue and poisoning saga.
“While the reshuffle is going to be influenced by many factors, given the current political situation the role and powers of Vice-President Mnangagwa are going to be scrutinised and reviewed in the reorganisation of the cabinet team,” the official said.
“But ministers from across the two Zanu PF factions will be affected because performance, loyalty, corruption and factionalism would be major variables in the reshuffle. So that means those in Finance, Education, Higher Education, Local Government, Energy and Mines could be affected.
“The only ministers who appear safe are those at Policy Coordination, Industry and Commerce, State Security, Investment Promotion, Health, Women’s Affairs, Lands, Home Affairs, ICT, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Tourism, Sports and Defence.
“Those in charge of Justice, Information and War Veterans ministries are most likely to be shifted, reshuffled or removed, but they are not the only ones on the firing line.”