CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Zimbabwean cabinet reshuffle highlights First Lady’s ascension in succession battle and waning commitment to austerity plans

20 October 2017

Key Points

  • ZANU-PF’s continued delay in setting out a presidential succession plan has intensified intra-party instability; the open-ended succession battles are unlikely to end with the cabinet reshuffle, which was meant to dampen growing internal schisms over Mugabe’s replacement.
  • Mnangagwa is unlikely to resign voluntarily from the ZANU-PF party; however, if expelled by Generation 40 (G40)-led cadres, any Mnangagwa-Mujuru-Tsvangirai alliance would be likely to face internal disagreements over who would become its presidential candidate and would be unlikely to win the election ahead of ZANU-PF.
  • New Finance Minister Chombo is unlikely to prioritise maintaining the government’s austerity push to cut spending; he is likely to prioritise economic reform programmes associated with G40 and Grace Mugabe, including the Command Agriculture Programme.

Event

Zimbabwe’s nonagenarian president, Robert Mugabe, reshuffled his cabinet on 9 October after announcing at a rally for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)’s youth wing the previous week that underperforming ministers would be replaced. The new cabinet suggests, however, that the intended aim of the reshuffle is to quash the succession stalemate within ZANU-PF between two main factions: the ‘Team Lacoste’ faction led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ‘Generation 40’ faction, which is supporting the candidacy of First Lady Grace Mugabe.

A ZANU-PF celebration held on 25 February for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday. Intra-party rivalry over the succession has intensified. (Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)A ZANU-PF celebration held on 25 February for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday. Intra-party rivalry over the succession has intensified. (Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The latest cabinet reshuffle in Zimbabwe is similar to the September 2015 exercise in which President Mugabe dismissed ministers aligned to Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who was removed from office in late 2014 alongside a purge in the ruling ZANU-PF. She had been accused by Mugabe of an attempted plot to overthrow him in late 2014, allegations which she denied. Her dismissal was in line with Mugabe’s strategy of neutralising senior ZANU-PF leaders who threaten his tenure and full control of the appointment of his successor. Following Mujuru’s removal, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a veteran politician, was selected as one two vice-presidents, and at the time he was considered best-placed to succeed Mugabe as president were he to die or become incapacitated in office.

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