When President Emmerson Mnangagwa made Constantino Chiwenga the Health minister — or rather, the VP made himself the Health minister — a couple of years ago, some of us holed hoarse and far.
So, when Mnangagwa removed Chiwenga from that position when he announced his latest cabinet after the August elections, there was a silent and measured sigh of relief.
It was never going to make sense to have the VP running that ministry.
After all, the only qualification that Chiwenga held was that he had been in several hospitals for long periods after the 2017 coup, critically ill.
If Mnangagwa does something that looks nice, you don’t quickly celebrate.
That’s because he is an artful conman. He gives you a morsel with one hand and takes away a whole load with the another,
That’s exactly what happened this past week.
When you think about it closely, you will notice that, with a swift stroke of the pen, the president has turned himself into a super minister.
He placed a staggering 13 laws in his own office. That was announced through Statutory Instrument 189 of 2023.
This means that he will personally administer the 13 statutes, wresting them away from the respective ministers.
It will be a long time before we get to know the real reasons why the president decided to turn himself into a busybody like that.
One thing for sure, though. This is a bigly ominous move. It gives you this feeling that things will not end well in Zimbabwe.
But whatever the reasons, one thing is clear. Given the nature of most of the laws that Mnangagwa has decided to relocate to a grain hut at his homestead there in rural Zvishavane where he comes from, this chap is not wasting time piling power and eating opportunities around himself.
In other words, he is using lawfare to strengthen his grip on power and to eat more.
What it means, in effect, is that the president will have direct and unfettered control on how those respective statutes are administered, rather than leaving that to the uninitiated whims of the ministers.
That was not necessary, though. All the ministers that Mnangagwa appointed recently are just a loose hip of grovelling pawns.
Even more tellingly, his first vice president, Chiwenga, has been reduced to a brooding duck, just as a VP must be in Zimbabwe.
Let’s start with the feeding issues, the Sovereign Wealth Fund Act.
You know by now that this law was renamed the Mutapa Investment Fund recently.
Ordinarily, there is nothing in a name or name change.
But it seems, here, the decision to rename it was meant to create some drama good enough to divert attention from what is happening.
The Mutapa Investment Fund Act regulates at least 20 parastatals, among them NetOne, NRZ, TelOne, Cottco and Zupco, Kuvimba Mining House, Cold Storage Commission, National Oil Company of Zimbabwe and People’s Own Savings Bank.
It seems Mnangagwa was not satisfied only with diluting Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s powers by shadowing him with his own son, Kuda as the deputy minister.
He has taken away from the minister, the Sovereign Wealth Fund Act just so that he gives it a close eye as he diversifies the dishes on the banquet table.
If you look at almost all those parastatals that Mnangagwa has firmly put under his own shoulder, there is something fishy about them.
They have an infamous history of corruption. They have been abused by the political elite as they fatten their pockets.
The Mutapa Investment Fund, which was created or recreated without bothering to involve Parliament, is a giant cookie jar.
It’s supposed to use investment surpluses, proceeds of public entity privatisation, government transfer as well as other fiscal surpluses and resource earnings to generate more money.
This is a mouthful to say those that are close to the fund have the chance to do all sorts of things with our money.
From sneaking in corrupt tenders and jobs to the clandestine externalisation to tax heavens, millions and millions of dollars will end up in personal accounts.
It can also be used to create monopolies for those that have the opportunity to abuse the fund.
Not too far into the future, you will hear of all sorts of projects being established using money from the fund.
And one thing will be sure. It will be Mnangagwa and his cronies like Kuda Tagwirei who will be at the centre of the cast.
As regards Tagwirei, kindly note that he has already been involved in controversial initiatives at some of the companies that will be administered from Mnangagwa’s office.
These include Kuvimba Mining House, a mysterious company that was set up equally mysteriously after Tagwirei was put under international sanctions.
This entity was set up without involving Parliament or cabinet even though Mnangagwa tried to convince us that it is a government portfolio.
Its interests span a whole valley, including mining. In reality, it was established to mask Tagwirei’s commercial interests in the wake of the sanctions, and to provide the space for all manner of looting.
You also know about the Landela deal. Landela is Tagwirei’s baby which entered into an opaque deal with Zupco to buy buses that the deal makers wanted to appear as if they belonged to the public transporter. The truth, though, is that those are Tagwirei’s buses.
But then, when you see Tagwirei, make sure that Mnangagwa is lurking close by.
The same applies with the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe.
That is the public entity that Tagwirei used to seize monopolistic control of a whole mega-million oil pipeline, Feruka, stretching from Mozambique to Harare.
Kuda was the face of the deal. He wouldn’t have single handedly been able to grab such a deal if he wasn’t eating with the big boys.
But just in case someone is going to be naughty and try to poke his or her own snort in the dishes, gaps must be plugged.
That’s where the Anti-Corruption Act, Commissions of Inquiry Act, Interception of Communications Act as well as the Prevention of Corruption Act come in handy,
Direct administration of these laws means that Mnangagwa will be in control of who will be investigated and who will not be investigated on allegations of corruption.
The Interception of Communications Act will give the president the privilege of who and what to bug.
It will be him alone who will decide who to bring under surveillance, and that, certainly will not be him, his sons, Tagwirei or the other village boys and girls.
Overall, it means that Mnangagwa is building a perimeter wall around himself and his buddies so that they will be able to eat without being disturbed by nosy crawlers, particularly his foes in government and the ruling Zanu PF party.
That’s a smart move for him, considering the fierce factional wars within the ruling party.
It’s also telling that some of the laws that he has domiciled in his office are power laws.
Outside the already mentioned ones, there is the Zimbabwe National Security Council Act.
If you know how political power plays out in Zimbabwe, you will also know that the highly militarised security council is where everything happens.
Zimbabwe, virtually, is ruled by that council. It decides everything from when summer will start and end to how to steal elections.
If you build this into what Mnangagwa has already done in a short space of time, you then easily see where he is going with the royal staff.
Just about everyone in government now is his son, uncle, niece or pawn.
That’s a good Machiavellian strategy for dictators.
Now he is taking all the power laws home with him. It will not end well.
Tawanda Majoni writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on [email protected].