Mugabe’s Cabinet Reshuffle: No Change Where ‘The Buck Stops’

This post was originally published here

By Vivid Gwede | Former US President Harry S. Truman famously put a sign on the resolute desk in the presidential office of the White House, the citadel of US executive power, with the following words: “The buck stops here.”

He sort of popularised the dictum, in political terms, even in speeches.

On October 9, 2017, Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe reshuffled his Cabinet – for the umpteenth time in his 37 year rule.

But it is clear that – if nothing changes where “the buck stops” – with Mugabe wanting to run again in the 2018 elections aged 94, then the recent exercise will amount to nothing.

This is because Zimbabwe’s buck, like Truman observed of the US’s, should stop at the presidential desk.

So, coming in another October’s heat, the reshuffle only gave weary Zimbabwean something to talk about as they sit in bars; chugging a beer to quench their thirst, even though the future itself doesn’t taste nice on the palate.

But still below I pick on some of the notable stories of the reshuffle, however immaterial to Zimbabwe’s most burning questions especially of an economic nature; those faced by the ordinary people, who daily scrap the bottom of the barrel.

Foreign policy broom, or continuing gloom?

Former Tourism minister, Walter Mzembi’s recent failed, but respectable run for post of the UNTWO Secretary General may have landed him the Foreign Affairs ministry. However, the jury is out on whether he will be the broom that cleans up Zimbabwe’s murky foreign policy because the buck stops with Mugabe – his belicose speeches and authoritarian rule earned the country its pariah status. Ironically, it has been suggested that Mzembi lost the UNWTO post because of Zimbabwe’s unmarketable and soiled brand. This basically means he failed to shake off the baggage as a candidate for the UNWTO post and might still fail as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Era of securitised justice?

Former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) boss, Happyton Bonyongwe’s appointment to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs begins his journey as a cabinet minister, but is suspicious where human rights and justice are concerned. As a spy chief in Zimbabwe’s notorious security sector for years, his role in human rights violations is not a palatable one. The question is: Will Bonyongwe carry out Zimbabwe’s obligations in the constitution’s Declaration of Rights and agreed at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review . Likely not. But, more than anything, it is a reward and signal to the security sector by Mugabe he still holds the aces. But little wonder what justice a former spy can dispense!

A case of cyber-rattling?

The creation of the Cyber Security, Threat Detection and MItigation ministry and its assignment to Patrick Chinamasa, a regime hardliner who distinguished himself in that regard as a controversial Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister during the Government of National Unity (GNU) puts the ordinary people’s human rights on the internet at stake. But Chinamasa must take note of the United Nations’ (UN) non-binding resolution A/HRC/32/L.20 of June 2016 on internet as a human right, which emphasises that people must be able to enjoy the same rights on the internet, as they do in everyday life. The resolution also condemns internet shutdowns by governments, but will the newly unveiled cyber overlord respect that? With an impending election and the surge in internet activist, the odds are that he will not. Already the stage for internet dictatorship has been set by the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime bill.

Weakening the croc

Vice President Mnangagwa, who has been the butt of accusations from the First Family, has been trimmed of powers as well as an extra paycheque by being stripped of the Justice ministry. This should be gutting, as his counterpart and nemesis Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko remains in charge of the National Healing and Reconciliation portfolio, while he should be content with deputising his estranged boss.

Biggest survivor – literally

The Zanu-Pf spokeperson, Simon Khaya Moyo’s survival from nearly a year of a terrible illness and accusations of supporting the sacked Vice President Joyce Mujuru – now leader of the NPP party – to controlling the ruling party’s information portfolio and now the government’s mouthpiece through the Ministry of Media Information and Broadcasting, might be the story of the biggest survivor in Mugabe’s recent changing of ministers. The Information ministry recent occupant, Chris Mushowe has been shunted to the National Scholarships ministry – an unwelcome addition to Zimbabwe’s bloated cabinet. However, little can be surprising in a country which once had a Minister Without Portfolio and where already a Minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education and Vocational Training exist! But, whoever occupies the Information ministry, as we approach the 2018 elections will not say anything about the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socioeconomic Transformation (ZimAsset), the government’s damp squip policy blueprint, because the big joke that it was, it fell on its monkey face.

Biggest loser

The biggest loser is Zimbabwe’s resilient people because the shuffling of dead wood in the Cabinet has raised a lot of dust, but nothing more. Countless reshuffles in Zimbabwe have not amounted to anything, because where “the buck stops”, nothing has changed in 37 long years. Nothing has changed at Zimbabwe’s “resolute desk.” So life and its strenuous hardships, for the numerous lot, still goes on, as it did the night before the reshuffle.