The nation of Zimbabwe is now slowly – and a little painfully – recovering from the after-effects of its “Mugabe-is-gone!” binge of last month. Reality arrived yesterday, in the form of the new Cabinet of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
And it showed that those who had pinned their hopes on Mnangagwa being the “new dawn” for this impoverished and brutalised country, were perhaps being extremely naïve. They may well wonder now: what were we thinking?
The cynics who warned that Mnangagwa – the former state security minister who was one of Robert Mugabe’s key allies during his 37 years in power – only promised “more of the same”, now look vindicated. Not only has Mnangagwa spurned the opportunity to involve opposition parties and truly let bygones be bygones, but he has entrenched the ruling Zanu-PF party “old guard” in his latest appointments.
Nowhere is that old guard personified more than in Perence Shiri, the former commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, who is more known for his role as the colonel in command of the army’s notorious, North Korean-trained, Five Brigade. This was the unit which killed thousands of civilians in its crackdown on armed dissidents in the Matabeleland province in the early ’80s.
Other military men and long-serving Zanu-PF cadres make up the rest of the Cabinet – and the party, in its public statements and tweets, has shown that “the more things change, the more they stay the same…”
If Mnangagwa does not make genuine moves towards reform, the inesacapable conclusion about the change of power in Harare was that it was a mere squabble by those close to the state trough.