ZIMBABWEAN President Emmerson Mnangagwa has used a classic dictator’s handbook to appoint his sons into cabinet in a brazen act of patronage, nepotism and cronyism, with a cloud of doubt hanging over the ability of many of the newly appointed ministers to efficiently execute their mandate.
On Monday, Mnangagwa, who was re-elected in the disputed general elections, courted widespread derision after selecting a cabinet that has been condemned for being weak and having a nepotistic bent. He appointed into his new administration his son, David Kudakwashe Mnangagwa, nephew Tongai Mnangagwa and many of his cronies.
Kudakwashe was appointed deputy Finance minister while Tongai landed the post of Tourism deputy minister without any known track records.
Tongues are wagging that there are also many of his clan members and homeboys in his new administration such as cabinet secretary Misheck Sibanda who was initially appointed by the former president Robert Mugabe.
Observers this week likened the appointments as a Marcos-style coterie of relatives, friends and cronies underpinned by clansmanship.
They said for all his excesses in power, Mugabe rarely appointed his relatives, although in the twilight of his political career he put his nephew Patrick Zhuwao into his cabinet and catapulted son-in-law Simba Chikore to the helm of a key state institution.
The observers said there were also a few other scarcely disguised nepotistic appointments, but not as brazen as Mnangagwa’s latest shocker.
They said in this case, it is worse. One of Mnangagwa’s twin sons is an army captain. His wife Auxillia, who has now surpassed Grace Mugabe in public flexing of the muscle of power, is sometimes sent on government business even though she is not a public official, for instance to Iran and Belarus.
In so doing, Mnangagwa has effectively joined the likes of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, former US president Donald Trump, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and certainly Filipino kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos, among others, in abusing power and office.
This is in contrast to Kenyan President William Ruto who said recently that he will never appoint any family member to his government. Mnangagwa’s nepotistic and appalling move smacks of corruption, kakistocracy, mediocracy and kleptocracy, the observers said. Kakistocracy basically means a government run by the least suitable or competent people, while kleptocracy is rule by thieves.
Mnangagwa’s action raises a number of critical issues which span the central question of meritocracy, “our time to eat mentality” that implies greed and corruption, governance, leadership succession and family dynasty.
Besides, it is also an ethics and character issue on his part. Coupled with misrule, nepotism has been known to fuel heightened poverty and people’s suffering.
Even the “as long as they are qualified in their respective fields” refrain to justify the appointment of relatives to government offices is really concerning because it is still the President or another public official who will decide.
As a result of the potential dire consequences of nepotism and family political dynasties, some countries have laws to prohibit the appointment of relatives into government. For instance, in the United States, there is an anti-nepotism law passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967.
The opposition United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA) has also criticised Mnangagwa’s cabinet, saying it fails to meet the expectations of many Zimbabweans who are suffering from a collapsing economy and a moribund local currency.
“President Mnangagwa’s cabinet essentially is a reshuffling of the same team that spearheaded the current economic meltdown. This will not move the nation forward. To achieve international standards, the President’s cabinet should be a platform that taps into the experiences of its appointed ministers. Experience, however, does not refer to the number of years one has spent in cabinet or to age,” said the party in a statement.
“He missed an opportunity to refocus government towards sustainable development. Appointing new qualified minds would bring new solutions to the myriad of challenges Zimbabwe is facing. Where are the youth in President Mnangagwa’s cabinet? The old generation should allow Zimbabwe’s young people to chart the way forward for future generations.”
UZA has also criticised Mnangagwa’s penchant for appeasing elderly war veterans and loyalists, with over a third of cabinet ministers now over 60 years old, which the opposition party said is likely to hamper fresh ideas to promote development.
“While UZA respects the cadres who sacrificed their lives for an independent Zimbabwe, we do not believe that 43 years after independence the country should remain in war mode. It’s time for new blood,” read the statement.
“Appointing 26 cabinet ministers and 10 provincial ministers in a country already burdened with economic malaise proves that either President Mnangagwa is out of touch with reality or has no regard for the voice of the people.”
The party has also expressed concern over redundancy in government departments, which could have been merged to create fewer ministries. “UZA questions what the role of the minister responsible for provincial affairs is. What is the role of the Skills Audit Ministry? Could it not have been a department within another ministry?”
The cabinet has also been under fire for being gender insensitive as it is made up of six women and 20 men, falling short of stakeholder efforts to achieve gender balance in the governance of Zimbabwe.
“Women and girls constitute 52% of our country’s population yet they continue to be underrepresented across key sectors resulting in limited opportunities to influence policy and access economic and legal protections. Women are also highly impacted by cultural and patriarchal barriers,” UZA said.
UZA is led by Elisabeth Valerio, the only woman on the presidential ballot in the just-ended elections.