Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa gives key cabinet jobs to military figures

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Emmerson Mnangagwa shortly after he was sworn in as Zimbabwe's president in Harare, 24 November 2017
Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised a “new democracy” for Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has named his cabinet, appointing senior military figures to high-profile positions.

Critics have said that it has dashed hopes of change in the country.

Mr Mnangagwa was inaugurated as president last week. He took over from Robert Mugabe who had been in power for 37 years.

Mr Mugabe stepped down after the army took control of the country, following a power struggle in the ruling party.

Thousands of people celebrated Mr Mugabe’s resignation as they hoped the failed economy would improve.

What has been the reaction?

The appointments led government critic Tendai Biti to suggest that Zimbabweans were “wrong” to have hoped for change.

“Up until now, we had given the putsch the benefit of the doubt. We did so in the genuine, perhaps naive view that the country could actually move forward. We craved change, peace & stability in our country. How wrong we were,” he said.

Some had hoped that President Mnangagwa would appoint members of the opposition to his cabinet, to form a transitional government until elections next year but this did not happen.

Newspaper owner Trevor Ncube said the cabinet was “very disappointing”.

“Largely the same people that caused this crisis have been recycled. The honeymoon comes to an end and reality dawns. His concern seems to have been rewarding those who brought him to power and Zanu-PF [the ruling party] unity,” he said.

Who are the most controversial new cabinet members?

Sibusiso Moyo

Sibusiso Moyo, the general who appeared on state TV to announce the recent military takeover, is the new foreign minister.

This is controversial because he went on air and denied there was a coup. But now, after a military takeover he has political power.

The head of Zimbabwe’s air force, Perence Shiri, was named the minister of agriculture and land affairs.

He is controversial because he is notorious for having led the military operation against those seen as opponents of Mr Mugabe in Matabeleland in the early 1980s.

The operation, led by the North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade of the army, resulted in the killing of an estimated 20,000 civilians.

As lands minister, he will presumably be in charge of Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme.

This saw the seizure of thousands of farms owned by the white minority which had previously been in charge of the country. Critics say this wrecked Zimbabwe’s once thriving economy and led millions of Zimbabweans to leave the country to find work.

Who else got a job?

Aside from Maj Gen Moyo and Air Marshal Shiri, leaders of the powerful war veterans’ association, who pushed for Mr Mugabe to go after the military intervention, also got cabinet jobs.

Chris Mutsvangwa, who heads the group, is now in charge at the information ministry.

What has happened in Zimbabwe?

Robert Mugabe had been the president of Zimbabwe for 37 years.

But there was a power struggle over who might replace the 93-year-old president, with Mr Mnangagwa and Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, on opposite sides.

Mr Mnangagwa was accused of plotting to take power and Mr Mugabe sacked him as vice-president.

Mr Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe and the military intervened.

On 14 November, military vehicles rolled into Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, detaining Mr Mugabe and placing him under house arrest.

He agreed to resign and Mr Mnangagwa returned to a hero’s welcome and was made president.

Who is the new president?

Mr Mnangagwa has been part of the country’s ruling elite for decades, having been minister of defence, security and justice.

Despite pledging a “new destiny” for Zimbabwe, Mr Mnangagwa is still associated by many with some of the worst atrocities committed under the ruling Zanu-PF party since the country gained independence in 1980.

What’s next?

The two new vice-presidents have not been appointed yet.

The BBC’s Shingai Nyoka in Harare says all eyes are on the general who led the military takeover Gen Constantino Chiwenga.

Zimbabwean commentators are waiting to see whether he will be rewarded with a vice-presidency.

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