Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has shuffled key positions in his cabinet after his ZANU-PF party swept the general elections in July. The new cabinet marks a departure from its predecessor: a unity cabinet of ZANU-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ministers, assembled in the aftermath of the violent elections of 2008.
On Tuesday, former justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa was appointed Minister of Finance – a post formerly held by MDC’s Tendai Biti; while Walter Chidhakwa, former deputy minister for state enterprises, was handed the crucial mining portfolio. Saviour Kasukwere, former Minister for Youth and Indigenisation, swapped places with Francis Nhema, who previously held the Environment portfolio.
Over the past decade, Mr. Chinamasa played a significant role in implementing ZANU-PF’s flagship policies. He drafted legislative provisions for the Fast Track Land Reform process of the 2000s in which 10 million hectares of land were forcibly repossessed from white commercial farmers and handed over black peasants.
Mr. Chinamasa was also involved in the negotiations preceding the formation of the Government of National Unity in the aftermath of the violent elections of 2008 in which the MDC was forced into a coalition after security forces loyal of ZANU-PF brutalized opposition leaders and supporters. His appointment as finance minister comes at a time when the national economy is showing signs resurgence after a decade long contraction resulted in the replacement of the national currency with a multi-currency economy. In a press conference prior to his appointment, Mr. Chinamasa indicated that Zimbabwe would persist with a multi-currency economy over the medium term, but would eventually resurrect the Zimbabwean dollar.
Mr. Chidhakwa’s appointment as minister for mines comes at a time when Essar Africa, a Mauritian subsidy of the Indian shipping and mineral conglomerate, is hoping to consummate a $750 million deal for ZISCO-Steel, a state-owned steel company. Essar acquired ZISCO-Steel in 2010, but the deal was plagued by intra-government conflict between ZANU-PF and the MDC.
“The deal was signed by the MDC’s minister of industry without fully consulting the ZANU-PF minister of mines,” said Rugare Gumbo, ZANU-PF’s spokesperson in an interview last month, “With a new cabinet in place, the deal is expected to progress smoothly.”