This past weekend, I celebrated a (slightly delayed) thanksgiving with my family and friends. Yes, the holiday may be American. But in Zimbabwe, this past month has brought about much to be thankful for. We began November with ZANU-PF factional fighting taking place in public. On the 6th of November, Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired as Vice-President. 18 days later, he was sworn in as the second Executive President of Zimbabwe. In between, there was a soft non-coup and a mass uprising.
Then this morning, we woke up to the announcement of Mnangagwa’s new cabinet. The press release has been ‘imminent’ since Monday, and many expected it to be a litmus test for the direction that Mnangagwa’s government would take.
Zimbabwe’s New Cabinet
Here is the press release:
If I was explaining this list to someone unfamiliar with the detail of Zimbabwean politics, I’d say this:
- This is not a list of new names.
- This is also not the ‘transitional government of national unity’ that the opposition parties were calling for.
- Instead, it is a mix of the old guard and the military – and a technocrat in the (very) important role of Minister of Mines and Mining Development (!).
- Oh, and the Major General that made the auspicious announcement after the takeover of national broadcaster? He’s the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.
There is plenty of uproar today about who is on that list. The independent newspapers are calling it a ‘deadwood’ cabinet. Many wanted more change than what we have seen.
But I can’t help but think that the ‘transitional government of national unity’ was as wishful and unrealistic as Mugabe being removed by peaceful electoral vote. That was not a true possibility. And what we got instead was the best possible version of regime change: a military non-coup under a thickly-varnished veneer of constitutionalism, and a splash of ‘democratic process’ in the form of a public march and an internal overhaul of the ZANU-PF party.
The ‘transitional authority’ of this kind of regime change is not a rainbow utopia. It is a cabinet made up of the military and the ‘winners’ in the ZANU-PF overhaul. And it is all part and parcel of the same thing.
To be clear
It seems to me that the offer on the table to the Zimbabwean people was:
- We will remove an aging Marxist dictator, end the political posturing over the succession fight, and replace him with a more business-oriented pragmatist in the person of Emmerson Mnangagwa.
- We will also remove Grace Mugabe, Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Ignatius Chombo, Patrick Zhuwao, Kudzai Chipanga, and the other G4o ‘extremists’ from their positions of power and influence.
- We will do so in a peaceful fashion that opens Zimbabwe up to foreign aid and new foreign loans.
- We will publicly commit ourselves to elections in 2018.
- We will also commit ourselves to allowing (and even enabling) freedom of speech.
- And once this is done, we will appoint into cabinet both the military leaders and those ZANU-PF officials who will have helped to bring this regime change about.
Sure, it would be nice if the offer had included opposition leaders and more technocrats in the cabinet – but it did not.
And despite this, no one would have turned that offer down in favour of the original status quo. Except perhaps those that benefited from it.
The first 7 days
Some other positive things to think about:
- Pastor Ewan Mawarire was cleared of all charges this week.
- ‘Aliens’ (being born and bred Zimbabweans who were unconstitutionally denied their right to vote) were granted their right to vote.
- The size of the cabinet was trimmed down (perhaps not enough in some people’s eyes – but it was a start).
- The budget and duration of the upcoming ZANU-PF party conference was slashed.
- An amnesty was announced for the return of public funds illegally stashed abroad.
- The IMF announced that it would be sending a mission to Zimbabwe within the next few days.
- The parallel exchange markets have pulled back.
- There is (some) cash in the ATMs.
- People continue to exercise their freedom of speech (and vigorously).
Of course, some of these things were choreographed.
But that is the nature of politics. And many of those changes are wonderfully positive.
A new pattern?
Also, a pattern of Zimbabwe’s political news seems to be emerging:
- *leak about upcoming [live resignation on State TV/cabinet] announcement*
- *many [live resignation on State TV/cabinet] rumours*
- *date of [live resignation on State TV/cabinet] announcement comes and goes*
- *other promising and related announcements in place of the original announcement [party expulsion and recall from presidency/ex-cabinet members asked to submit CVs, announcement of plans to trim cabinet and reduce number of ministries]*
- *actual [live resignation on State TV/cabinet] announcement – people are disappointed*
- *some new announcement that overshadows it*
I think we’re waiting for that last part on the cabinet front. So we shall see.
Perhaps it’ll be a nice fat foreign loan for Christmas, with a side of legislative reform gravy? Or a surprise Vice-President candidate (although that is almost certainly just a wish).
Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and sometimes things that are only loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Also, check out the RA podcast on iTunes: The Story of Money.