AFTER stuffing his cabinet with ethnic cronies, clansmen, friends and relatives, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has continued to reward longtime allies by preparing space for them on the feeding trough.
This week, Mnangagwa appointed his political loyalist and homeboy — with whom he has some familial relations from the Midlands province — special adviser to the President responsible for Monitoring and Implementation of government programmes.
His very close allay, former Justice ministry permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza, was appointed Zimbabwe’s new Attorney-General. The AG is an ex-officio member of cabinet.
Another key Zanu PF factional political crony, Mike Madiro, was appointed National Railways of Zimbabwe chairperson, granting him a slot on the state feeding trough.
Mnangagwa also appointed his relative Martin Rushwaya — a cousin — the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet to replace Misheck Sibanda, another relative, in a brazen display of nepotism bordering on corruption. Sibanda retired.
Rushwaya, former Defence ministry permanent secretary, was Sibanda’s deputy since Mnangagwa came to power in 2017.
Gumbo was a vital cog in Mnangagwa’s machinery during Zanu PF’s factional battle during his long stint as the party’s chief whip.
He was the ruling party’s chief whip from 1995 to 2015, where he used his position to quietly recruit legislators for the Mnangagwa faction, while also advancing factional agendas using influence.
Mabhiza is very close to Mnangagwa. The two worked together when Mnangagwa was Justice minister in 2013. Mnangagwa continued to oversee the ministry’s operations when he was appointed vice-president in 2014 after the expulsion of Joice Mujuru from Zanu PF and government.
As Justice secretary, Mabhiza pulled the strings for the Mnangagwa faction on legal matters and appointments to ensure he ascended to the presidency.
This included clandestinely retiring the late former Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who was associated with the G40 faction, which had rallied around Mugabe and his wife Grace, as they prepared room for Chief Justice Luke Malaba, a Mnangagwa loyalist. Mugabe reversed the retirement.
Mabhiza also played crucial roles alongside Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to push for Constitutional Amendment number 1 and 2 Acts, which buttressed Mnangagwa’s power consolidation.
The Acts allow Mnangagwa to extend Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term beyond 70, enabling him to be in office during the 2023 elections, so that he superintends over electoral challenges, before and after the elections.
The judiciary, with Malaba as the head, played an important role in the 23 August elections passing a number of controversial judgements including barring Saviour Kasukuwere from contesting the presidential elections and dismissing applications for the opposition to be given access to the voters roll among other things.
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.1) Act changed the procedure for the appointment of the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court.
The president, after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), now makes the appointments, without the need for public interviews, thereby opening the door to promotions on the basis of political suitability and cronyism.
It allows judges of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court to continue to serve beyond the current retirement age of 70, if the President, after consulting the JSC, consents to their doing so.
This strips judges of their security of tenure and hence their independence, since they will hold office from year to year subject to the President’s consent.
The acts concentrated power in the president personally by removing the running mate clause to allow the president to choose vice-presidents after his or her election ensuring they hold office at the president’s pleasure.
The Act further allowed the President to appoint up to seven ministers from outside Parliament — from five previously — thereby extending the president’s power to control his cabinet as well as extending his powers of patronage.
In addition, the amendments changed the procedures of the appointment and dismissal of Prosecutor General, which were similar to that of a judge.
The Act altered this by removing the need for public interviews of candidates before the President appoints the PG. The president was given the ultimate discretion to decide whether or not a PG should be dismissed.
Mabhiza was also in the thick of things in quarrels among Zimbabwe Electoral Commissioners as she sought to influence decisions, resulting in clashes with Zec chair Priscilla Chigumba.
Mnangagwa has also rewarded Madiro, his longtime allay, by appointing him to chair the NRZ board.
He was one of the six Zanu PF chairpersons who were dismissed by Mugabe for supporting Mnangagwa during the controversial Tsholotsho Declaration in 2004.
The chairpersons were accused of plotting Mnangagwa’s rise to the deputy presidency ahead of former vice-president Joice Mujuru, but with the ultimate aim of succeeding Mugabe.
Mnangagwa used a classic dictator’s handbook to appoint his sons into his administration in a brazen act of patronage, nepotism and cronyism.
The President, 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 his son, David Kudakwashe Mnangagwa (pictured), 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.
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 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, 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.