ZIMBABWE President Robert Mugabe on Friday appointed his nephew as minister of the department that oversees the controversial policy of forcing foreign firms to cede majority shares to locals.
The “indigenisation” policy has been blamed for further damaging Zimbabwe’s shattered economy as companies move abroad and potential foreign investors shun the country.
Patrick Zhuwao was named minister of youth empowerment and indigenisation in a reshuffle that saw four new ministers and 10 deputies appointed by veteran leader Mugabe.
The new ministers were sworn in at state house in Harare.
Mugabe last reshuffled his cabinet in July after he fired allies of ex-vice president Joice Mujuru, who was dismissed last year over allegations of plotting to unseat him.
The Friday reshuffle was the third time in nine months, this time with Mugabe also naming new ministers for information transport and macroeconomic planning.
Christopher Mushowe was named information minister, replacing Jonathan Moyo.
Joram Gumbo will head the transport ministry, where he takes over from Obert Mpofu. Mpofu was named macroeconomic planning minister. The ministers and 11 deputies were sworn in at a ceremony in the capital, Harare.
The move comes amidst hints that a political transition to a Zimbabwe beyond 91-year-old and often frail Mugabe might be underway, The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is increasingly running government and working closely with Mugabe on a daily basis, suggesting a slow motion change of political baton is underway behind the scenes even if in public the veteran leader is struggling to assert his authority amid growing internal opposition.
Mnangagwa, seen by some as well-positioned to take over from the ailing Mugabe.
This comes as speculation gathers momentum within the corridors of power Mugabe might leave before his current five-year term expires to allow Mnangagwa to finish his tenure, while he prepares to be the Zanu PF candidate during the crucial 2018 elections.
However, in public Mnangagwa’s growing public clashes with a faction associated with Mugabe’s wife Grace, which includes ousted minister Jonathan Moyo, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and the President’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, paint a different picture. From that perspective, it appears Mnangagwa might not be the preferred successor as Mugabe and Grace have hinted, even though he is currently the most well-positioned to take over.
Officials say Mnangagwa is already in charge of most day-to-day government business as Mugabe is unable to perform to capacity due to old-age and frailty. “If you consider what is actually happening behind the scenes, you can say a transition is already underway.
Mnangagwa meets Mugabe on a daily basis at State House where he briefs him on what would have transpired during the day,” a senior government official said this week. “Mugabe rarely comes to (his) Munhumutapa Building offices, but operates from Zimbabwe House or State House where he meets his deputies every day. He also meets ministers and other officials there, but Mnangagwa briefs him daily.”
Sources also said Mnangagwa is now attending security briefing meetings with the Joint Operations Command (Joc) every Monday where issues of security, defence, immigration, border control, food and social security as well as economic issues, among others, are discussed.
Mugabe used to attend all such meetings, but these days he is assigning Mnangagwa,” a Joc official said. “After the meeting, normally around 2pm, Mnangagwa then goes to meet Mugabe at State House or even at his Borrowdale ‘Blue Roof’ house to give him a report of the meeting and other things.”
This suggests Mnangagwa — who is also in charge of the Ministry of Justice as well as occasionally chairing Zanu PF on a rotational basis with his counterpart Phelekezela Mphoko — now has an increased role in government and is being taught the ropes of how to run government despite internal Zanu PF opposition to him.
Two contrasting game plans regarding Mugabe’s succession are emerging with Zanu PF insiders saying the camp led by Mnangagwa is pushing for an extraordinary congress in 2017 to pave way for him to take the reins ahead of the 2018 general elections, while another group, calling itself Generation40 (G40), insists on consolidation around the ageing leader.
The Mnangagwa camp believes Mugabe no longer has the capacity or stamina to lead the party and the country beyond his current tenure amid increasing signs of his infirmity. The group loyal to Grace wants Mugabe to stand for re-election in 2018 to finish his term in 2023 when he would be 99 to get more time to mobilise and a leg up in the heated race.