Cabinet: Glorified circus or tragic reality?


WHEN President Robert Mugabe finally announced the much-awaited Cabinet, I did not know whether to laugh or to cry.

One can only sum the Cabinet as a mixture of tragedy and comedy because some of the characters and names of ministries evoke comic relief, while others are a sure sign of tragedy in the making.

If anything the Cabinet could pass for a glorified circus with tested and gifted clowns, some of whom presided over some spectacular failures in various areas.

I was intrigued by the addition of the Courier and Postal Services portfolio to the ministry of Information Communication Technology.

I am sure Webster Shamu may be more inclined to Postal and Courier Services compared to the more information technology-conscious Nelson Chamisa.

What will such a minister do on a day-to-day basis? Possibly he could supervise postmen and ensure that our national courier service companies deliver gifts, flowers and other urgent mail.

Simon Khaya Moyo has landed the very high post of Senior Minister Without Portfolio. As to whether he will be senior, there is no doubt, but his day-to-day job description leaves much to the imagination.

He joins the likes of late greats such as Joshua Nkomo and Eddison Zvobgo who were once ministers without portfolio.

To add to the stroke of humour and comic relief, we have the incredible Minister of State Responsible for Liasing On Psychomotor Activities in Education (Vocational Education). I am sure a lot of employees in that department will be fired for failing to remember the full name of that ministry. One is reminded of William Shakespeare who speaks of a “tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing” when one thinks of elaborate the name given to the ministry and the depth, or lack thereof, of the job description.

Saviour Kasukuwere is the new Water, Climate and Environment minister and there is a strong possibility that he will indigenise both the water and the climate.

Then there are two Agriculture deputy ministers, but the one which stole my attention and had me in peels of laughter is the Agriculture deputy minister responsible for livestock.

A whole person and a whole minister presiding over cattle and goats, how interesting! What a brilliant stroke of comic relief?

I am sure many Cabinet ministers privately chuckle at the names of some of the ministries. You then have the endless array of Ministers of State, some in the President’s Office, one in charge of Presidential Affairs (whatever that means) and others in the Vice-President’s Office .

The minister responsible for Presidential Affairs, Didymus Mutasa, was once known as a credible speaker of Parliament, but more recently has gained national, if not international fame, or is it notoriety? for leading a high-powered delegation on a comical trip to a n’anga to extract diesel from a rock.

I don’t know how a whole country, with whole ministers who think diesel can be extracted from a rock, could expect to prosper with individuals credited for their naïvety, ignorance and propensity for superstition.

On a more sober note, the marginalisation of women in the Cabinet is a cause for concern and a tragic reflection of embedded patriarchal attitudes which relegate women to traditional roles in the kitchen and or bedroom.

One would have expected tried-and-tested ministers such as Olivia Muchena, Sithembiso Nyoni and Flora Bhuka to be given more meaningful Cabinet posts instead of being reduced — in the case of Bhuka — to an extension of office furniture and fittings in the Vice-President’s office.

The new Constitution is clear that there should be gender and regional balance in the Cabinet thus making the suggestion that there are not enough experienced or qualified women in a country with 13 million people a monumental scandal!

Whereas the last Cabinet had the likes of Gorden Moyo, Welshman Ncube, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo and David Coltart, there is only one minister from Bulawayo in the Cabinet — Eunice Moyo (Provincial Affairs).

We can assume that others such as Simon Khaya Moyo, Obert Mpofu, Jonathan Moyo and Kembo Mohadi are not from Bulawayo since they did not contest in Bulawayo, but either in Matabeleland North or South.

Harare has Tendai Savanhu who was once accused of sponsoring the notorious Chipangano.

The reintroduction of Jonathan Moyo is a disaster for freedom of speech while the retention of the likes of Joseph Made (Agriculture) and Ignatius Chombo (Local Government) is an indication that there is no serious policy shift or drift.

The appointment of the moderate and shrewd Francis Nhema is one of the new positives in a Cabinet which is composed of largely “have beens” and a couple of “wannabes”. The creation of the Sport, Arts and Culture ministry is noble, but there are serious doubts about the credentials of the holder of the post Andrew Langa.

The appointment of ministers responsible or provincial affairs is a clear attempt at derailing and undermining the concept and practice of devolution of power as outlined in Chapter 14 of the Constitution.

The tragic reality though is that whether we like it or not, that is the Cabinet and the government we have.

We may have to live with this cabal for the next five years if there are no more reshuffles.

We may have to engage this Cabinet and bring it to account for its actions, whether or not it is a glorified circus presided over by experienced clowns or it is a demonstration of the theatre of the absurd.

 Dumisani Nkomo is an activist and opinion leader