The new power structure: Winners and losers

The new power structure: Winners and losers
  • PublishedJanuary 4, 2018

With the fall of Mugabe and the G40, how has the country’s power structure changed? Who has gained and who has lost? Report by Baffour Ankomah.

So far, it is almost same old, same old, the slight difference being the size of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet announced on 30 November – 22 ministers and six deputy ministers as against Mugabe’s famed large cabinets (the last, after the 2013 elections, had as many as 33 ministers) which he kept rotating in different portfolios from time to time for 37 years.  But in terms of personnel, Mnangagwa has merely recycled some of the old faces, dropped some of them, and, for the first time in the post-independence history of the country, brought in two serving military officers – perhaps as a reward for the military intervention that sped his way to power.

Nowhere to be seen near the seat of power is Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party, the largest of the MDC splinter groups that now constitute the political opposition in the country. Having fully participated in the “people’s power demonstration” on 18 November that helped push Mugabe out of power, the opposition hoped it was going to share in the spoils.

For now, there is no “new” power structure to talk about. It is just a game of musical chairs, the old faces going round and round, maybe because they have just eight months to go before the next election.



Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of the Republic

By far the biggest beneficiary of the November events is the man whose middle name Dambudzo means trouble. Now 75 years old, Mnangagwa, who was sworn in as President on 24 November, was always considered as Mugabe’s heir apparent until First Lady Grace Mugabe started to have other ideas.

Mnangagwa, popularly called by his initials ED, served Mugabe for 54 years in various positions, starting as special aide and head of security before independence, and after independence in numerous ministerial positions, including justice, defence and lastly as vice-president.

Born in 1942 in Zimbabwe, he spent his early youth in Zambia, where his parents had been banished to by the white colonial government in the then Southern Rhodesia. He cut his political teeth in Zambia where he joined the youth wing of President Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP party. He rose to become the leader of UNIP’s youth wing before returning home to Southern Rhodesia to join the liberation struggle.

He had military training in Egypt and China, and led a unit in the liberation war which became famous for its hit-and-and run tactics against the white regime.

For his bravery and derring-do, he earned the moniker “crocodile” during the war, and nearly paid with his life when the first non-combatant white man to die in the war was killed by the actions of his group. He was only saved from the hangman because he was under the age of 18. He served 10 years in jail and when he was released, he was deported to Zambia where his parents still lived.

He finally crossed over to Mozambique to join Mugabe and Zanu’s armed wing, Zanla. His relationship with Mugabe, 19 years his senior, blossomed and the duo grew into the liberation war firmly believing that victory was theirs, even though they were fighting against a superior enemy.

In a historic interview in 2015, Mnangagwa told New African about why the boss he had served for 54 years was a cut above the rest.      

“I don’t think the next generation will be able to produce a person like President Mugabe,” Mnangagwa told New African. “I don’t think we can get a person even in our generation who can fill his shoes [given the way] he has been able to remain an intellectual giant in leading our people and charting a course for the African people of this region, perhaps even continentally.

“A man who would stand whatever pressure, who would stand the pressures of the West and not sacrifice what is correct for expediency, just to say for now, I will forgo what is right for my people in order to be comfortable. No, Mugabe doesn’t do that. And I don’t see anybody in our region of that calibre, let alone among ourselves as Zimbabweans.”

Today Mnangagwa sits on the throne that Mugabe occupied for so long. He arrived there against all odds, including even a sacking by Mugabe 19 days prior. He has the opportunity now to prove himself capable of filling the shoes of his former boss.When he swore in his cabinet on 4 December, ED promised the nation that his team would be up to the job. “I have sworn in a new cabinet to finish the term of the former president, which is between six to seven months,” he said. “It has been hectic but I believe that with my team, we will be up to the challenge. Together, we will grow the economy.”


Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Finance

For a long time a Zanu-PF heavyweight, often used by President Mugabe in sticky political negotiations at home and abroad, Patrick Chinamasa surprisingly lost the favour of the Mugabes and was demoted from his high perch as Minister of Finance in a mini cabinet reshuffle on 9 October 2017 and dumped in what was Zimbabwe’s equivalent of the Soviet-era Siberia, the newly created Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation.

Zimbabweans who saw the funny side teased him with the moniker, “Minister for Whatsapp”.

Chinamasa’s demotion was apparently because he was a long-time ally of the then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and many saw his demotion as having been influenced by First Lady Grace Mugabe.

As expected, Chinamasa was sour about the demotion and refused to utter a word in public until Sunday 19 November, when he read to the nation the resolution of Zanu-PF’s Central Committee recalling Mugabe as President of the Republic and first secretary of the party. The same resolution expelled Grace Mugabe from the party and from her position as head of the Women’s League. Poetic justice had been served.

And things got even better for the man who had served Mugabe for over three decades in various ministerial positions. On 27 November, two days after becoming President, Mnangagwa asked Chinamasa to go back to his old ministry as acting finance minister, and three more days later Mnangagwa named him as the substantive finance minister.

Now aged 71 (he was born on 25 January 1947), Chinamasa is likely to be one of the solid pillars on which Mnangagwa’s government will rest, especially in its quest to resuscitate the economy.

Having been Minister of Finance for four years already, Chinamasa now knows his way about in the corridors of global financial power, including those of the IMF and the World Bank, which are likely to be more lenient to Zimbabwe now that Mugabe is gone.


General Constantino Chiwenga, military chief likely to be one of the power bases behind Mnangagwa’s throne

A veteran of the liberation struggle, who is said to still have bullets from that era embedded in his body, General Chiwenga is a well-known Mnangagwa ally who respected, and was loyal to, President Mugabe as his commander in chief and worked so hard, sometimes against all odds, to support Mugabe as President of the republic. It must have therefore pained him a lot to have been the leader of the military intervention that led to Mugabe’s downfall. 

Now aged 61 (born on 25 August 1956), Chiwenga commanded a lot of respect in both government and private circles even before the military intervention on 15 November. A holder of a PhD in ethics, Chiwenga’s word opens doors wherever it is given or sent, and it was not a surprise that it was his word that brought the tanks and the people into the streets of Harare, which finally hastened Mugabe’s way out of office.

Appointed as commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in 2004 when his predecessor, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, retired, Chiwenga’s stock has since risen considerably countrywide, which was shown by the wild cheers he received at Mnangagwa’s inauguration on November 24 at the National Sports Stadium in Harare any time his face appeared on the wide screen or his name was mentioned over the loudspeakers.

Though he has no position yet in government, Chiwenga is likely to be one of the power bases behind Mnangagwa’s throne. There is a sweet chemistry between the two men, dating back a long time, which was buttressed when Mnangagwa served as defence minister after the 2013 elections.


Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate

As the woman who relinquished her position as head of Zanu-PF’s Women’s League in 2014 to pave the way for the then First Lady Grace Mugabe to assume the position and enter politics, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, 59 (born 14 December 1958 in Mutare, Manicaland) must be kicking herself for doing so. She now blames the former First Lady for bringing Mugabe down.

As one of the leading lights on the female side of Zanu-PF, Muchinguri-Kashiri, who fought in the bush war that brought independence to Zimbabwe in 1980, had served as Minister of Higher Education and Minister of Women’s Affairs before being appointed as Minister of Environment, Water and Climate in 2015, a post she has retained in the new order.

“Under Mugabe, we agreed that we would no longer import fruit, given our land reform programme,” Muchinguri-Kashiri told journalists after being sworn in by Mnangagwa. “We have 10m seedlings of citrus fruit trees that need to be planted but the project was dumped because of the factional fights. We will now pursue that project. President Mnangagwa was chairperson of the committee that was steering the project and some people were not happy with its success. But now we have no obstacles,” she explained.

At 59 years old, Muchinguri-Kashiri is young enough to be one of the influential members of government if Mnangagwa wins next year’s elections.


Obert Mpofu, Minister of Home Affairs

Now 66 (born 12 October 1951), Obert Mpofu was one of the most vigorous politicians at the Zanu-PF Central Committee meeting on 19 November that asked former President Robert Mugabe to resign in dignity or face impeachment in Parliament. Mugabe chose the latter before finally falling on his sword even as the impeachment process was in progress.

Mpofu has the dubious distinction of officially addressing Mugabe, while the going was good, as “your most obedient servant” in his letters. A very rich man and heavyweight (both in body mass and a political sense, especially in Matabeleland), Mpofu’s bacon was saved when Mnangagwa retained him as Minister of Home Affairs, where he had been moved in October 2017 by Mugabe in a mini reshuffle.

Coming from the ZAPU side of Zanu-PF, Mpofu is one of the earliest Zipra guerrillas to be trained in the 1960s. Before breaking into big-time politics, he served as Governor of the Matabeleland North Province, and was then moved around various ministries by Mugabe.

After President Mnangagwa swore him in on 4 December 2017, Mpofu promised to reform the police service and make it a “people’s force” and end police corruption.

Regarding the conduct of police officers at checkpoints on the roads of Zimbabwe, Mpofu said: “That is my first assignment. There are concerns and I have received a lot of complaints about the bad behaviour of some of our officers. It is the people’s force and it has to abide by the expectations of the people, but at the same time maintain law and order.”

If he can fulfil his promises, Zimbabweans will thank him greatly, for they are truly fed up with the multitude of police roadblocks all over the country, where the philosophy appears to be ripping motorists off through, sometimes, unnecessary on-the-spot fines.


Sithembiso Nyoni, Minister of Women and Youth Affairs

Having started her working life as a high school teacher at Selly Oak College in Birmingham, England, and an adjunct professor at the School for International Training in Brattleboro in Vermont, US, Sithembiso Nyoni, 68 (born 29 September 1949), joined Mugabe’s cabinet in 1995 as Deputy Minister of Public Construction and National Housing.

A holder of an MA in rural social development, Nyoni was appointed Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises Development in 2002 and stayed in that position until President Mnangagwa announced his cabinet on 30 November, when he moved her to the Ministry of Women and Youth affairs. She is now one of only three female cabinet ministers, and she, like the other two, will have to justify their inclusion by working hard in their new positions.


Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, Minister of Lands, Agriculture & Rural Settlement

One of the longest-serving military chiefs in Zimbabwe’s post-independence history, appointed Air Force Commander in 1992, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri was born Bigboy Samson Chikerema on 11 January 1955. Perrance Shiri was his liberation war name which he liked so much that it became his proper name.

Now aged 62, and having served as Air Force Commander for 25 unbroken years, Shiri has accumulated a lot of managerial experience, which he brings into government as Minister for Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlement, one of the appointments which some analysts insist is a reward for the military intervention that led to the rise of Mnangagwa as President.

A military man through and through, Shiri was the first commander of Zimbabwe’s infamous 5th Brigade that is accused of having committed atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands Province in 1982-83 which came to be known as Gukuranhundi. An estimated 20,000 people were killed during the operations, an action that has always been blamed on Mnangagwa, who was national security chief at the time. 

Shiri also commanded the Zimbabwean troops at the start of the Second DR Congo War in August 1998, during which the Zimbabweans distinguished themselves by driving the surrogate forces from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi from the outskirts of Kinshasa, DR Congo’s capital.

Military historians say it was Shiri who decided that Zimbabwean troops would defend Congo’s most important airport, N’Djili, in order to maintain an air route for resupply and reinforcements, if needed.

At Shiri’s swearing in on 4 December, President Mnangagwa told him “no more land invasions”, to which Shiri responded: “That will be done chef, no problem.”


Prisca Mupfumira, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry

One of the women who had graced Mugabe’s cabinet for some years, Prisca Mupfumira is a quiet and dignified woman who served previously as Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, before being suddenly dropped by Mugabe in a mini reshuffle on 9 October 2017 for being a member of Mnangagwa’s Lacoste faction in the ruling Zanu-PF.

The October reshuffle was said to have been largely influenced by First Lady Grace Mugabe and the G40 faction linked to her. Thus, at a Zanu-PF politburo meeting on 13 October, a seething Mupfumira is said to have confronted Grace Mugabe, telling her to her face that she was ungrateful and that she was turning against people like her (Mupfumira) who had helped Grace ascend to power.

Mupfumira’s new appointment as minister is seen as a reward for standing with Mnangagwa.


Major General Sibusiso Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

From the total obscurity of the barracks, Major General Sibusiso Moyo has become the newest celebrity in town, having been appointed by President Mnangagwa as Minister of Foreign Affairs after he became the face of the military intervention that accelerated Mnangagwa’s rise to power.

At 4am on 15 November, Major-Gen Moyo’s face filled the TV screens of Zimbabwe and then abroad as he announced on the national broadcaster ZBC that “following the address we made on 13 November 2017, which we believe our main broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, and The Herald were instructed not to publicise, the situation has moved to another level.”

It was the first time that most Zimbabweans had heard of the major general, who was promoted from brigadier general by President Mugabe only in January 2016.

A holder of a PhD in International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe, a Masters in Business Administration from the Zimbabwe Open University, and a Masters in International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe, Major Gen Moyo has the theoretical backing for his new job, but no practical experience.


Simon Khaya-Moyo, Minister of Energy and Power Development

Now aged 72 (born on 1 October 1945), Simon Khaya-Moyo seems by far the most Teflon of Zanu-PF politicians. Nothing sticks on him. Moved as Minister of State in the President’s Office to Minister of Information only on 9 October 2017, Khaya-Moyo had the unenviable task of announcing the sacking of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 6 November.

In the “termination of employment as vice president” statement that he signed, Khaya-Moyo, who doubles as the spokesman for Zanu-PF, told the nation that “it had become evident that [Mnangagwa’s] conduct in the discharge of his duties had become inconsistent with his official responsibilities. The vice president has consistently and persistently exhibited traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness, and unreliability. He has also demonstrated little probity in the execution of his duties.”

On 14 November, a few hours before the military tanks rolled into Harare, Khaya-Moyo had the difficult task again of issuing a statement on behalf of Zanu-PF attacking the military and its chief commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, for daring to issue a statement the day before.

In that statement which has now become a huge embarrassment for Khaya-Moyo, he more or less told the military to get lost. He said Chiwenga’s statement “suggests treasonable conduct on his part as this was meant to incite insurrection and violent challenge to the constitutional order. Indeed, this is what happens when the gun seeks to overreach by dictating to politics and norms of constitutionality.”

Four days later, after Zanu-PF’s Central Committee had ordered Mugabe to resign or face impeachment, Khaya-Moyo was singing a new tune. As spokesman of the party, he was the one now announcing the expulsion of party members aligned to the Mugabes. And when Mnangagwa was inaugurated on 24 November, Khaya-Moyo was the first of the two MCs for the grand occasion.

A former Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa (2007-2011) who grew up in Zambia and received military training in Russia and Cuba, Khaya-Moyo was tipped to become the second Vice-President in 2014 but Mugabe bypassed him and chose Phelekezela Mphoko instead.

Despite earlier declaring loudly that any talk of a successor to Mugabe was “treasonous” Khaya-Moyo changed his tune after Mugabe had resigned. He told the state-owned newspaper, The Herald, that Mugabe “had overstayed the hospitality of the people of Zimbabwe. Worse still, he surrounded himself with people of criminal conduct, primitive and disrespectful attributes.”

Joining all this together, Khaya-Moyo is lucky to have been picked by President Mnangagwa as Minister of Energy and Power Development. However, his political story mirrors the Zimbabwean phenomenon of following power instead of principles. In this, he is not alone. It is a Zimbabwean disease.



Phelekezela Mphoko, former Vice-President

Apart from the Mugabes, former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko is the highest-ranking loser in the new power structure in Zimbabwe. A former Zipra commander in charge of logistics who then became a politician, diplomat, and businessman, Mphoko’s rise to the presidium in December 2014 was not without controversy, as his former colleagues from the ZAPU side of Zanu-PF wanted Khaya-Moyo instead. Moyo had been the former aide of the late ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo.

In the end, Mphoko made a successful case that convinced Mugabe to appoint him as VP in place of the late John Nkomo, to occupy the ZAPU slot on the presidium in accordance with the 1987 Unity Accord signed by ZANU and ZAPU that united the two liberation movements in what is now Zanu-PF.

As Vice-President, Mphoko cut a dull figure and was the butt of many jokes. Politically, Mphoko aligned himself with First Lady Grace Mugabe and her G40 faction. Against all protocol, Mphoko famously issued a statement on 4 October 2017, read live on national television, accusing his other VP colleague, Emmerson Mnangagwa, of peddling lies for political ends. No wonder, when the tables turned and Mnangagwa became President and dissolved the cabinet on 27 November, Mphoko’s term as VP was effectively ended. He was away from the country when the military intervention took place and at the time of writing in mid-December, he had not been back.

Mphoko is a cattle ranching farmer and entrepreneur whose family owns 51% of the Zimbabwe branch of Choppies Supermarkets. 


Prof Jonathan Moyo, former Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education

It is said that Grace Mugabe single-handedly brought down her husband, but if “single-handedly” means Grace was helped in that pursuit, that person was definitely Prof Jonathan Moyo.

Aged 61, Prof Moyo was said to be the brains behind Grace Mugabe’s political ambitions.

Moyo served two tours as Minister of Information under Mugabe, between 2000 and 2005, and from 2013 to 2015. His penchant for controversy earned him a public rebuke from Mugabe in 2014, who called him a “devil incarnate”. Once, speaking at the Heroes Acre, Mugabe referred to Moyo as a “weevil” that needed to be taken care of. But Mugabe never fired him, apparently because he was working with Grace Mugabe.

Originally a fierce critic of Mugabe when not in government, Moyo became the staunchest defender of Mugabe when he became Minister of Information in 2000, and went back to being a fierce critic of the President when he was expelled from Zanu-PF in 2005. It came as no surprise that when the G40 faction was defeated in November and Emmerson Mnangagwa became President, Prof Moyo was expelled from both Zanu-PF and Parliament.

Not many people will ever have as colourful a political career as Jonathan Moyo. He ate controversy, slept controversy, cultivated controversy, and his political career, for now, has ended controversially. He might bounce back someday, again controversially, so it would be foolish for his enemies to write his political epithet.


Saviour Kasukuwere, former Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and National Housing

Appointed Zanu-PF’s political commissar in December 2014, Saviour Kasukuwere was one of the leading lights of the Grace Mugabe-linked G40 faction, and he used his position as political commissar to displace the structures of Mnangagwa’s Lacoste faction in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces.

He went about this task with thorns and thistles, so much that it backfired spectacularly in April 2017, when Zanu-PF’s provincial structures revolted against him in massive demonstrations, calling for his sacking and expulsion from the party. But he was saved by Grace Mugabe who lent on her husband to reject the calls for Kasukuwere’s head.

His rise in the ministerial ranks under Mugabe started when he was appointed as Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment (2009-2013), before other ministerial portfolios.

Kasukuwere was a successful businessman before he entered politics in 1999, having left the President’s Department where he worked as an intelligence officer to pursue his own business ventures in 1994. He owns an oil business called Comoil, and also the United Touring Company, and Cornucopia Farm.

Now out of power, his greatest regret must surely be that he and Prof Jonathan Moyo pushed the G40 agenda so hard, they ended up killing it.


Dr Ignatius Chombo, former Minister of Finance and Economic Development

One of the real heavyweights of the Mugabe-era, Dr Ignatius Chombo came off worst in the military intervention that sped Mugabe’s downfall. Only promoted to finance minister a month and five days before the military struck, Chombo was arrested, detained and tortured (as he alleged when he was put before court on charges of fraud and abuse of office dating back to 2004).

Aged 65 (born August 1952), Chombo was one of the respectable faces of the Mugabe years, but his critics always accused him of enriching himself and acquiring numerous properties in office.

He was one of the big fish close to Grace Mugabe and the G40, and it came as no surprise that the military went for him as soon as the tanks rolled into Harare.

He cut a sorry figure in court, chained to the former leader of Zanu-PF’s Youth League, Kudzai Chipanga, who is also facing charges of insulting the military in a statement he issued on 14 November – a statement he later claimed was given to him by higher-ups in Zanu-PF to read at a press conference. 

Chombo and Chipanga were among the Zanu-PF officials expelled from the party by the Central Committee on 19 November. A close ally of Mugabe, Chombo was finally given $5,000 bail on 7 December but ordered to surrender his passport, report to the police three times a day, and stay away from government offices and the central bank. He will appear again in court on 8 January 2018.


Dr Sydney Sekeremayi, former Minister of Defence

Quiet and urbane, with a good volume of grey hair as a trademark, the 73-year-old Sydney Sekeremayi was the favourite of Grace Mugabe to succeed President Mugabe. For months in 2017, when the factional fights inside Zanu-PF became fierce, reports consistently mentioned Dr Sekeremayi as the beneficiary of the manoeuvres of Grace’s G40 faction.

At independence in 1980, he was appointed Minister of Lands, Rural Development and Resettlement, and stayed in the cabinet for the next 37 years, serving in various portfolios including health, mines, transport, and defence.

Before he became the benefactor of the sympathies of the G40 faction, Dr Sekeremayi, a safe pair of hands and a scandal-free politician, was considered an ally of Mnangagwa. But that was not enough to earn him a place in Mnangagwa’s new and leaner cabinet.


Dr Walter Mzembi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs

One of the best qualified Zimbabweans to hold the post of foreign minister, Dr Walter Mzembi’s time in that office was rather brief. Loved by President Mugabe who always promoted his causes, including appointing him to Zanu-PF’s Central Committee in December 2014, Dr Mzembi was moved as Minister of Tourism (where he had done so well for the country) to become foreign minister only on 9 October 2017.

Mzembi was dropped when Emmerson Mnangagwa announced his cabinet on 30 November.

Though he was technically not a member of the G40 faction, as he had spent the last three years out of local politics campaigning to become secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a vote he lost by a whisker in April 2017, Dr Mzembi was yet seen as harbouring G40 sympathies.

A hard worker who was nominated by Mugabe as his “best minister” in 2013, Dr Mzembi oversaw a revamping of the tourism industry and revenue in the eight years he was in charge of the sector (2009-2017).

Dr Mzembi was one of the Zanu-PF members expelled from the party, but not from Parliament, where he still occupies the Masvingo South constituency seat he first won in 2004 and subsequently in 2008 and 2013.


Dr Joseph Made, former Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development

A heavyweight of the Mugabe era, Dr Joseph Made (born November 21 1954) spent the last 17 years as the minister responsible for land and agricultural-related issues.

Before his first appointment as Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlement in 2000, supervising Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme, he was the CEO of the farming parastatal, the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) that has a substantial land holding across the country. Made was therefore well versed with the land issue.

Another safe pair of hands who enjoyed the confidence of President Mugabe, Dr Made became one of the main figures in the country as the land reform programme moved from step to controversial step, buffeted by droughts and thus food shortages.

Not one to be drawn on loud politics, Dr Made concentrated on his work and became the face of Zimbabwean agriculture. NA

Written By
Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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