NOW DAILY EDITORIAL
George Washington, the first president of the United States, appointed a Cabinet of only four men: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson; Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton; Secretary of War Henry Knox; and Attorney General Edmund Randolph to advise him and to assist him in carrying out his duties.
Today, the U.S. cabinet has expanded, but to no more than 20 cabinet secretaries and just a handful of cabinet-level officers.
It defies logic, therefore, that a small country like Zimbabwe, with a resident population of 13 million, 95 percent of whom are unemployed, can choose to have 70 (seventy) cabinet ministers and deputies.
Other comparisons are startling. The U.S. had a gross domestic product of $16.24 trillion in 2012, compared to Zimbabwe’s $10.81 billion.
In 1980, when Mugabe came to power, there were just a handful of ministries. It is an established fact that the Rhodesian economy, with much fewer ministries and parastatals, was much better managed and better able to weather United Nations sanctions.
Through the years, Zanu PF has created numerous cabinet portfolios, most of which are duplications of existing posts. There is no evidence that these new creations have done anything to improve the lot of Zimbabweans. If anything, these are posts set up to create the so-called “jobs for the boys” and suck the fiscus dry. And in the grey area between changes in the Ministries, government resources have been looted by corrupt officials.
We have noticed that after every rigged election, the president has created new ministries and dissolved others at will in an attempt to push misguided party political agendas.
For example, there is no need for a tiny country like this to have four ministries dealing with education, arts and culture (Ministries of Primary and Secondary Education, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Sports, Arts and Culture and Liaising on Psychomotor Activities). Incredibly, the Pyschomotor Minister, Josiah Hungwe has no clue what he is supposed to be doing, although he is getting a minister’s salary and enjoying executive perks. Typically, the creation of this Ministry and other redundant posts was aimed at pacifying disgruntled officials in the Zanu PF camp.
There are also numerous economic ministries which could easily be compressed into small departments to save our meagre taxes, which can no longer cover the outrageous needs of these hangers on.
NO SENATE APPROVAL
In the U.S., Cabinet members are nominated by the President and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority. If they are approved, they are sworn in and then begin their duties. Additionally, the American President is prevented by law from appointing relatives and friends to Cabinet. Due to weaknesses in the Zimbabwean system, the President can do whatever he wants.
Mugabe has taken advantage of this loophole to appoint his close relatives to top posts. Thus, we have seen Mugabe relatives like Ignatius Chombo serving in government for decades and causing massive damage to governance structures. The President has also abused this priviledge to advance others like Walter Chidhakwa (cousin and now Minister of Mines) and Patrick Zhuwao, his late sister Sabina’s son.
Additionally, in the U.S., Cabinet officials receive an amount of pay determined by Title 5 of the United States Code. According to 5 U.S.C. § 5312, Cabinet level positions qualify for Level I pay, which was set at an annual salary of $199,700 in 2011. Some Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President and the White House Chief of Staff, have their salaries determined differently.
The U.S. system provides for a clear line of authority and succession, meaning that Cabinet members know their place. Even when the President is on vacation, the government can still function effectively.
In the Zimbabwean context, when the President goes on leave, there is practically no-one is in charge, even though, on paper there is an Acting President. Only the late Vice-Presidents Joseph Msika and Joshua Nkomo had the guts to exercise authority and even reverse Mugabe’s executive orders in the public interest, without disastrous consequences.
Mugabe has perfected his dictatorship, and often uses the inevitable confusion arising from such a large Cabinet to maintain control.
The Zimbabwean economic quagmire is soluble, but it must start with Mugabe reducing the size of his Cabinet and involving the legislature to vet all appointments.