Editorial: Euphoria drains with new cabinet

It has not even been a fortnight since the swearing in of Zimbabwe’s new leader and already much of the euphoria that characterised that historic day has fizzled out.

Ordinary Zimbabweans so hopeful of seeing swift change were bitterly disappointed on Friday when their new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, unveiled a cabinet with two of his military allies in top positions, while also re-appointing several figures from the Robert Mugabe regime and thoroughly sidelining the opposition.

Mnangagwa, known as the Crocodile, made Major-General Sibusiso Moyo his foreign minister and air force commander Perence Shiri the new minister of lands and agriculture.

Many Zimbabweans loathe Shiri as the former head of the North Korean-trained “Fifth Brigade” that was instrumental in the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland in 1983, in which some 20 000 people were killed.

Mnangagwa also kept on a good few faces from the Mugabe era, including Patrick Chinamasa, who is back as finance minister despite a blemished track record.

Obert Gutu, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said it best when he likened the appointments to “putting old wine in new bottles”.

South Africa has a significant population of Zimbabwean expats who, over the 30-plus years of misery under Mugabe, had little choice but to leave their home country in the hopes of a better life elsewhere.

Many have indicated they would gladly return if the situation there improved, but cautious optimism risks being replaced by the realisation that political reform may continue to be elusive.

Further insult is the untouchable status of the Mugabe clan for whom, it seems, there will never be repercussions for their sensational abuse of state resources, among other gross infringements.

Just yesterday The Herald carried a report on the 93-year-old former despot’s daughter, Bona Mugabe, who is building a mansion on state-owned land that was meant to have housed a school.

While a clean break from Mugabe’s rule looks unrealistic, at least some degree of economic reform is expected. The trouble is, the people of Zimbabwe deserve so much more.

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