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24 Feb 2009 15:01
Zimbabwe opposition groups have launched a scathing attack following a decision by their leaders to add more ministers to the country’s “global political agreement”.
Members of Parliament from both Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions this week began voicing their concerns over the bloated government.
An extra 30 ministers have now been added to the 31 agreed by Zanu-PF and the MDC.
President Robert Mugabe last week swore in five more ministers of state and 19 deputy ministers, bringing the number of ministers and deputy ministers to 61. Another 10 provincial governors are due to be sworn in at a date yet to be announced.
Mavambo, an opposition group led by former finance minister Simba Makoni, said this reflected “abundantly that this government of national unity is all about convenience for the politicians and not about delivery of service to the people”.
Job Sikhala, former MP and a senior member of a smaller MDC faction, said party supporters were “confused and dismayed by the circus”.
“This was the most stupid thing to do,” he said.
“A collapsed economy like Zimbabwe cannot afford the luxury of 71 ministers, even a country as big as the United States with 51 states has one president, one vice-president and a Cabinet of less than 21 ministers.”
According to a report in the Zimbabwe Standard, ministers and deputy ministers were last week shown empty offices without furniture while others are reportedly squatting in private offices.
Sources say that the government has already ordered luxury vehicles and furniture for all ministers and that the bill was expected to run into several million US dollars.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told guests at the MDC’s 10th anniversary celebrations last Wednesday that the government was broke.
Mavambo, which is transforming into an opposition party, said there is now no difference between the two MDC formations and Zanu-PF.
“At least we are not surprised by Zanu-PF wanting a big government, because we have lived with it for many years,” said the party in a statement. “But it’s hard to believe that the two MDCs which have, over the years, used every platform available to promise the people of this country that they stood for a lean and streamlined government can readily violate their own principles.”
But the two MDC formations defended themselves, saying the transitional government is temporary.
“We have serious misgivings with the size of the Cabinet particularly at a time when the economy is in such a bad state,” said Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesperson.
‘The MDC’s [Tsvangirai faction] policy is to have no more than 15 ministers. We believe in a lean, efficient and accountable administration.”
Chamisa, who is also the Minister of Information Communication and Technology, added: “However, we have to appreciate that this is not an MDC government: it is a transitional and inclusive government. There are too many players involved. Our party can only have its say, not its way.”
Edwin Mushoriwa of the Mutambara-led MDC said the bloated government was the cost of getting Zimbabwe back on its feet.
“It’s a compromise,” he said. “If the MDC had formed this government alone, it would have been leaner, it would have been less than a quarter of what we have but we had to compromise.”
Sources said Mugabe pleaded with Tsvangirai and Mutambara to have his extra ministers accommodated as part of efforts to ensure “stability” in the country.
Mugabe pointed out the appointments were necessary in order for him to manage the “dynamics in Zanu-PF” in the face of stiff resistance by some members of the old guard to the formation of an inclusive government.
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