CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Zambian cabinet reshuffle and ruling party purges of gatekeepers likely to increase policy instability, affecting IMF negotiations

21 February 2018

Key Points

  • Margaret Mwanakatwe’s appointment as finance minister is likely to lead to the renewal of International Monetary Fund (IMF) talks; however, reaching a deal in the next three months is unlikely due to the government’s failure to meet IMF conditions.
  • Patriotic Front youth are likely to hold public protests in key cities such as Lusaka, Ndola, and Kitwe, resulting in road closures, trade disruption, and public service closures in the unlikely event of Lungu losing his Constitutional Court challenge.
  • Further shifts in support leading to the formation of a new party to challenge Lungu, including possible fresh defections between parties, are highly likely in the one-year outlook.

Event

Zambian President Edgar Lungu reshuffled his cabinet on 14 February, replacing or reassigning over half of his ministers. The cabinet reshuffle is likely an attempt by Lungu to respond to mounting criticism of poor economic management and to remove any resistance within the ruling Patriotic Front party to his third-term bid by moving influential gatekeepers who could obstruct his plans.Zambian President Edgar Lungu (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on 30 March 2015. Zambia's cabinet intends to restructure loans from China. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)Zambian President Edgar Lungu (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on 30 March 2015. Zambia's cabinet intends to restructure loans from China. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

Those taking up important portfolios in Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s cabinet reshuffle include Margaret Mwanakatwe, a senior banking executive and the former trade and industry minister, who took over Felix Mutati’s finance and national planning portfolio; Mutati moved to the works and supply ministry. Mutati has been instrumental in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is credited with stabilising the economy. Additionally, President Lungu replaced some permanent secretaries in the civil service and provincial ministers, arguing the government is streamlining operations to curb increasing corruption. However, this is more likely an attempt to balance political interests in the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party following mounting criticisms from members of the party’s leadership of being sidelined.

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