Mugabe’s Cabinet reshuffle likely to 'negatively impact economy' - expert

President Robert Mugabe (File: AFP)
President Robert Mugabe (File: AFP)

Cape Town – President Robert Mugabe's recent reassignment of Patrick Chinamasa from the finance portfolio is "going to undermine the country's re-engagement strategy with the international community" and have a negative impact on the country's economy, says a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.

In an interview with News24, Derek Matyszak said that this was likely also aimed at clipping Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa's powers who, until recently, was seen as the front runner in replacing Mugabe.

He added that Mnangagwa was the driving force behind the re-engagement with the international community as he was positioning himself as a reformist and front runner in the race to replace the veteran leader.

"I have not really seen how the markets have been impacted by the reshuffle. But I do think that this would have a negative impact on the country's re-engagement strategy with the international community. It is going to be tough for the country as investors are likely not going to be happy," Matyszak said.

Until his reappointment on Monday Chinamasa was Zimbabwe's minister of finance, a position he had held since after the 2013 elections.

He reportedly has been leading talks with international lenders which included the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

'Well-planned strategy'

According to Voice of America, Mugabe reassigned Chinamasa while he was in Washington for the Annual and Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, in his capacity as the country's finance minister.

Mugabe has replaced Chinamasa at the finance ministry with Ignatius Chombo, who until Monday was the country's home affairs minister.

"Chinamasa and a host of others who are believed to be Mnangagwa allies have been demoted or sacked from their portfolios. This is likely a well-planned strategy to clip Mnangagwa's powers," Matyszak added.

Two distinct camps have emerged in Zimbabwe's revolutionary party in recent years as factions seek to outwit each other in the race to succeed the 93-year-old leader.

Vice President Mnangagwa is allegedly leading a faction calling itself "Team Lacoste", while another grouping made up of Young Turks, commonly known as Generation 40 and which reportedly backs First Lady Grace Mugabe to succeed her ageing husband, wants to torpedo Mnangagwa's presidential ambitions.

Although both Mnangagwa and the first lady have publicly denied harbouring presidential ambitions, ructions in the revolutionary party have now become synonymous with Zanu-PF politics. 

"Well, President Mugabe occasionally would set one faction over the other but once a faction becomes too powerful he then pulls the plug, and this is exactly what has happened. There was a need to cut power from the Mnangagwa faction as it had become too powerful. The reshuffle would likely not impact Zanu-PF in the upcoming elections. Only if Mugabe had stripped Mnangagwa of his vice presidency, maybe then, it would have," said Matyszak. 

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