'Coup' leaders get key posts in Zimbabwe cabinet

Wednesday 06th December 2017 06:45 EST

Harare: Zimbabwe's new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has given key jobs to two senior military officials who played a central role in bringing him to power. Sibusiso Moyo, the Army officer who went on state TV on November 15 to announce the military's takeover of power, was appointed foreign minister. Air Force commander Perrance Shiri was made the new minister of lands, agriculture and rural resettlement.

Shiri is notorious for having led the military operation against opponents of Mugabe in Matabeleland in the early 1980s. The operation resulted in the killing of an estimated 20,000 civilians. Zimbabwe's long-time ruler Robert Mugabe stepped down a week after the military's move, allowing his erstwhile vice president Mnangagwa to return from hiding in South Africa to pick up the reins as interim president a week ago.

The 22 members of the cabinet are all members of the ruling Zanu PF party, dashing Zimbaweans' hopes that Mnangagwa might include opposition representatives in his government. The 75-year-old had promised in his inauguration speech to reach out to the opposition and also pledged sweeping reforms and a crackdown on rampant corruption. Chris Mutsvangwa, who heads the group, was made in charge at the information ministry. Leaders of the powerful war veterans' association, who pushed for Mugabe to go after the military intervention, also got cabinet jobs.

The cabinet appointments take immediate effect, said an information ministry official. Following the announcement, many Zimbabweans took to social media to vent their anger and disappointment.

"Up until now, we had given the coup the benefit of doubt. We did so in the genuine, perhaps naive view that the country could actually move forward. We craved for change, peace and stability... How wrong we were," wrote Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe's former finance minister and a key government critic.

Zimbabwean media mogul Trevor Ncube tweeted: "President Mnangagwa's Cabinet is very disappointing. Largely the same people that caused this crisis have been recycled. The honeymoon comes to an end and reality dawns." Mnangagwa, who promised a "leaner" cabinet after taking power, has fewer ministers than in Mugabe's last government. Patrick Chinamasa was brought back as finance and economic development minister, a post he previously held under Mugabe. Mnangagwa also appointed six new deputy ministers and 10 ministers of state for provincial affairs. He is yet to appoint two vice presidents, which Zimbabwe's Constitution allows a sitting President to do.

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