Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso B Moyo and his Transport and Infrastructural Development counterpart Joel Biggie Matiza and Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba died last month from Covid-19-related complications.
Mnangagwa, insiders said, was under pressure from Zanu-PF, the military and close business associates who are lining up their proxies for ministerial posts.
He will need to deploy the skills to walk a fine line between balancing interests of the opposing fronts and bringing incompetent personnel to help steer the country out of the current economic and diplomatic mess.
The Zimbabwe Independent is reliably informed that Mnangagwa has already started the consultation process for suitable candidates.
Sources said the President instructed Zanu-PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu to collect curriculum vitaes (CVs) from members of the National Assembly and the Senate.
Mpofu then delegated Zanu-PF parliamentary chief whip Pupurai Togarepi, who on Tuesday, sent SMS and WhatsApp messages to MPs, demanding the CVs.
The message reads: “Attention all members, very urgent: May you send summarised CVs on the following e-mail address (e-mail address supplied). This is an instruction from the secretary for administration’s office. It’s very urgent and confidential, of course.”
In an interview yesterday, Togarepi confirmed calling for MPs’ CVs.
“I think that is an internal party issue which I would normally not respond to, but I will just tell you that this was done to assess our legislators’ skills, qualifications and competencies for future tasks. This may have to do with moving them to different committees of parliament or other appointments; so I will keep the information in my database,” he said.
Pressed on why party leaders demanded the CVs, he said, “Oh, of course, yes, that is true. I was acting on instructions from my superiors. I draw my authority from the leadership of the party. They now have that information, but I don’t know what they will use it for.”
Efforts to get comments from Mpofu were fruitless as his mobile phone was on voicemail. Questions sent via SMS went unanswered.
It is understood that legislators are jostling to take up ministerial posts by angling to gain favour with Mnangagwa.
Some MPs even engaged consultants to prepare attractive CVs.
“It’s not a secret that there will be a cabinet reshuffle soon. The President, though keeping his cards close to his chest, has given a clear indication that he is not going to appoint gap fillers, but wants a cabinet reshuffle. He also appears to be frustrated by the incompetences of some ministers,” an official said.
A Zanu-PF politburo member chipped in: “I haven’t seen this level of interest in ministerial appointments. People have been running around trying to fix things and lining themselves up for posts. As we speak, not one MP failed to submit his or her CV.”
The final line-up of possible new cabinet members is unknown, but sources indicated that Mnangagwa has lost faith in Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry. She is likely to be replaced by her deputy, Tinoda Machakaire.
Machakaire – a close associate of the influential business tycoon Kuda Tagwirei – is angling for the top job.
“The issue here is that although the President liked Coventry in terms of the Sport and Arts portfolio, she is seen to have been found wanting in terms of the youth portfolio. Machakaire’s advantage is that he is more robust. He is seen as having the capability to mobilise youths and bring them over to the party. This is being done with 2023 general elections in mind,” a source said.
There is uncertainty about who will get the Foreign Affairs and International Trade portfolio although it’s touted that Mnangagwa is weighing up four options, including Coventry.
Checks are being made, at Mnangagwa’s behest, on the suitability of former African Union (AU) representative to the United States, Arikana Chihombori-Quao — a medical doctor and ultra-pan-Africanist.
Some members of Mnangagwa’s inner circle expressed reservations about her appropriateness given that she has frosty relations with the West because of her unbridled attacks on France’s continued milking of Francophone Africa’s resources.
In fact, she lost her ambassadorial post in 2019 after Western governments pressured the AU Commission to recall her over her strong views against France.
As such, sources said, consultations are underway with ambassador and permanent representative of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in New York, Frederick Shava. There are also suggestions to bring back former Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
“This is proving to be a real issue now given the options being weighed. At the end of the day, the President will make his choice,” added another source.
Mnangagwa is facing problems in replacing Matiza and has reportedly made consultations with Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena.
However, questions of conflict of interest arose since he runs a transport business and has interests in some companies involved in road construction.
The National Oil Infrastructure Company (Noic) chair Daniel Mckenzie Ncube is said to be under consideration.
Zanu-PF stalwarts are pushing for former finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to take over as Information minister from the passive Monica Mutsvangwa.
Mnangagwa, although relishing the idea because of Chinamasa’s highly abrasive approach to things, is unsure of what to do with Mutsvangwa, sources said.
“The dilemma here is that, basically, there are candidates for all the other ministries and although some have suggested she can be moved to replace Gwaradzimba in Manicaland. At the same time, it would not appear too well to just drop her from cabinet,” an official said.
The military command element is pushing for the ouster of Defence and War Veterans minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri. She, however, remains one of Mnangagwa’s key factional allies.
“The only ministers who appear safe are those at Industry and Commerce, State Security, Women’s Affairs, Lands and Agriculture, Home Affairs, ICT and Tourism,” another source said.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said “there will be no cabinet reshuffle”.