PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has come under fire for packing his cabinet with an additional set of ministers at a time his administration was firing ordinary workers in efforts to rationalise government’s huge wage bill.
The veteran leader on Friday appointed 14 new ministers, among them deputies and a minister without portfolio in his third cabinet reshuffle in less than a year.
Among the new ministries, Mugabe created the less conventional Ministry of Policy Coordination and Promotion of Socio Economic Ventures in the President’s Office to be headed by Simon Khaya Moyo.
He further hived off roles from the Environment and Local Government ministries to create the Ministry of Rural Development and Preservation of National Cultural Heritage which he assigned to former Matebeleland South Minister of State, Abednico Ncube.
Not to miss out on the gravy train was Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa ally, Makhosini Hlongwane who was appointed Minister Without Portfolio.
Asked soon after his swearing in, what his duties entailed, the Mberengwa East MP said he would scramble for space within the so-called 10 Point Plan recently prescribed by President Mugabe as the panacea to the country’s perennial economic woes.
Hlongwane refused to shed more light as to what exactly he will be doing daily in his government office.
Minister without a job … President Mugabe congratulates Makhosini Hlongwane
In a brief address to dozens of journalists who thronged State House for the ceremony, Chief secretary to President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda refused to take questions from journalists who were keen to know why the President was overloading his government.
With a bloated parliament of nearly 350 legislators and complement of almost 60 ministers including deputies, Zimbabwe’s government is regarded way too large for its small economy.
But while the new ministers take time to celebrate the famous climb to glory, locals have condemned the additional appointments which they say are an unnecessary strain on the national purse.
Reacting to the appointments, publisher and academic, Ibbo Mandaza said the appointments by President Mugabe were more intended to placate his restive hangers-on and nothing to do with a real desire to improve the country’s faltering governance system.
“This is a clear case of creating jobs for the boys,” Mandaza told NewZimbabwe.com.
“He has extended the cake. He is already eyeing the next elections and creating a resource for electioneering.”
Mandaza He added: “It doesn’t make sense; it only makes sense politically.
“It’s a state under siege and therefore anything is possible in the name of survival … it’s a slap in the face of the whole talk about macro-economic reforms.”
Going up the patronage ladder … Some of the new ministers at Friday’s swearing in
Luke Tamborinyoka, spokesperson for MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai questioned Mugabe’s propensity to inflate government with new ministers while claiming to be downsizing.
“At a time when talk is about the retrenchment of civil servants, or ‘rightsizing’ the civil service, we have 14 new Ministers being sworn in,” Tamborinyoka said in a post on his Facebook personal page.
He added: “Are we ‘rightsizing’ in the correct area? Are we not, as we used to do in High School, ‘shading the unwanted area?'”
Similarly, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general Japhet Moyo slammed the continued appointment of deputy ministers which he said was unnecessary as the latter had limited roles under their ministries.
“How then does government proceed to burden the tax payers by filling up those positions of deputy ministers when, actually, they are not going to be acting in their respective ministries?”
Moyo said the ZCTU leadership was Friday inundated with calls from disgruntled workers baffled with President Mugabe’s decision to appoint additional ministers while firing ordinary workers.
“These (ordinary workers) are low ranking people taking very minimal costs within the government expenditure so they were