President Robert Mugabe has reportedly forced Information Minister Jonathan Moyo to step down to address what the Zimbabwean media termed a “technicality” that arose when he won a parliamentary seat in the country’s recent by-elections.
According to News Day, Moyo was appointed into cabinet in 2013 as a non-constituency MP and sources said he had to take a new oath of office as an elected legislator before he could return as a minister.
Mugabe was advised by Attorney-General Prince Machaya that Moyo had “technically resigned” from his ministerial post when he decided to stand as a Zanu-PF candidate in Tsholotsho North.
Under the Zimbabwean constitution, Mugabe can only appoint his government ministers from members of parliament. He, however, can also appoint up to five ministers chosen on the basis of their professional skills and competence from outside parliament. Moyo was among the five who were appointed under this facility.
Moyo would have to be reappointed to cabinet as a directly elected minister.
Legal expert, Alex Magaisa posted an article online saying it was not clear what the latest development could mean for Moyo.
“Details of what has transpired are not clear at present. One view is that he has been sacked. The other perspective is that what has happened is merely procedural and that he will bounce back into cabinet.”
Magaisa said it could also be possible that Mugabe wanted to use this occasion to do a cabinet reshuffle and might have another portfolio in mind for Moyo.
Magaisa said Zimbabwean ministers served at the pleasure of the president and that they can be hired and fired at any time.
According to a News24 correspondent, a rival group led by current Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was now fighting hard to block Moyo’s re-appointment as information minister as they accused him of being “overzealous” and using state media to attack colleagues in government.
“He is out of government for now after winning Tsholotsho North parliamentary by-elections, but there are slim chances he will bounce back because he is just overzealous and uses state papers to attack other ministers,” said a top government official aligned to Mnangagwa.
On Wednesday, however, it did not appear from Moyo’s tweets that he was a man who had been sacked.
New Zimbabwe.com reported on Wednesday that the development could be Mugabe’s way of clearing the way for his wife, Grace, to possibly join his cabinet.
The report said Moyo’s victory appeared to have solved a conundrum for Mugabe, who has not appointed a minister for women – a post believed reserved for his wife.
Grace has been rumoured to be earmarked for appointment as women’s affairs minister following her entry into mainstream politics last year after she was confirmed the women’s league boss in the Zanu-PF politburo.