Zimbabwe swears in first post-Mugabe cabinet


HARARE, Dec 4 – Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson
Mnangagwa swore in his cabinet on Monday, with allies defending
him against criticism for giving top posts to the generals who
helped his rise to power.

Sworn in as president on Nov. 24 after 93-year-old Robert
Mugabe quit following a de facto military coup, Mnangagwa has
also come under fire for bringing back several faces from the
Mugabe era, including Patrick Chinamasa as finance minister.

Air Marshall Perrance Shiri, who was handed the sensitive
land portfolio, defended his appointment in remarks to reporters
after a simple ceremony to take oaths of office.

“Who says military people should never be politicians? I’m a
Zimbabwean so I have every right to participate in government,”
he said.

Shiri is feared and loathed by many Zimbabweans as the
former commander of the North Korean-trained ‘5 Brigade’ that
played a central role in ethnic massacres in Matabeleland in
1983 in which an estimated 20,000 people were killed.

Land is a central political issue in the southern African
country, where reforms in the early 2000s led to the violent
seizure of thousands of white-owned farms and hastened an
economic collapse.

Another military figure is foreign minister Sibusiso Moyo,
whom most Zimbabweans remember as the khaki-clad general who
went on state television in the early hours of Nov. 15 to
announce the military takeover.

He declined to discuss the cabinet with Reuters, saying he
had yet to get into his new office.

Assembling a cabinet has not been without mishaps.

Mnangawa dropped his initial pick as education minister on
Saturday, 24 hours after appointing him, after a public outcry
and reshuffled two others to meet a Constitutional requirement
that all but five ministers be Members of Parliament.

This has left the information portfolio vacant after he
named Chris Mutsvangwa, the influential leader of the war
veterans’ association, as special advisor to the president.

Mutsvangwa has defended the cabinet, which at 22 is smaller
than Mugabe’s 33-strong team, saying the two military
appointments were not unique to Zimbabwe.

He also said Mnangagwa had “engaged” the opposition MDC
party about taking part in an “inclusive” government, but its
leader Morgan Tsvangirai had blocked it — a claim disputed by
the MDC.

“As far as we are concerned there was no contact whatsoever
between President Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF and our party regarding the
possibility of inclusion or involvement of our members in the
government,” MDC Vice President Nelson Chamisa told Reuters.