‘You’re not Prime Minister, you’re just a coup announcer’ – Mutodi throws gauntles at S B Moyo

Energy Mutodi

HARARE – Deputy information minister Energy Mutodi accused foreign affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo of behaving like a Prime Minister hours after Moyo publicly censured him for comments critical of Tanzania’s coronavirus response.

Online tabloid ZimLive has provided a leaked copy of a letter which Mutodi wrote to Moyo, who said in a statement released to state media on Monday that Mutodi’s comments made on Twitter “do not reflect the government’s position nor policy.”

“With due respect to your highly regarded office, I wish to remind you that our two ministries operate on a divergent yet complimentary role, with your foreign affairs ministry outward looking while my information ministry is inward,” Mutodi wrote to Moyo in a May 12 letter.

Mutodi said his tweet which praised President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, while appearing to mock Tanzania’s, was designed for the Zimbabwean voter.

“While my ministry is worried about the public perception on the national leadership, its image, electability and the public approval ratings of the president, your ministry focuses on foreign cooperation and diplomatic engagement, otherwise our two ministries should have been merged if they served the same purpose,” he wrote.

Moyo called a meeting with information minister Monica Mutsvangwa and information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana on Wednesday to explain his actions.

The foreign minister told Mutsvangwa and Mangwana that he was forced into issuing the statement after the Tanzanian embassy in Harare raised objections to Mutodi’s May 4 tweet, which he had not deleted by Wednesday.

Mutodi had tweeted: “His Excellency John Pombe Magafuli’s Tanzania now has 630 Covid-19 cases with prayers but without a lockdown, while His Excellency President E.D. Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe only got 31 cases with a lockdown and masks. An insight into how managers can be game changers.”

Moyo publicly censured Mutodi, saying in his statement: “Each government is implementing policies that best suit their unique domestic environments in line with the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO)… In this context, there was no basis whatsoever to compare the policies of the two presidents.”

In his letter to Moyo, Mutodi maintains that the fallout could have been contained without going public – and exposing the government to public ridicule.

He claims in his letter that he was right to draw the contrast because the World Bank was initially critical of Zimbabwe and South Africa’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, while praising Tanzania.

In the United States, President Donald Trump has described the virus as a “Chinese virus”, but members of his cabinet who may have reservations about the description have not objected in public, Mutodi went on.

“Your public statement, which could have been sufficiently dealt with by a diplomatic correspondence to the Tanzanian embassy, if it mattered, has divided public opinion, first on the definition and meaning of government and whether you had become its Prime Minister in charge of the two ministries,” Mutodi added in his stinging letter to Moyo.

On Wednesday, Mutodi declined to comment on his letter, but minutes after our enquiry, he wrote on Twitter: “Living in fear of the Chris Mutsvangwa-SB Moyo coalition. I hope it won’t resort to wartime tactics. Appealing for prayers.”

Chris Mutsvangwa is the husband of Mutodi’s boss, Monica Mutsvangwa. Relations between Mutodi and Monica Mutsvangwa are reportedly strained.