February 7, 2007

Mugabe reshuffles cabinet / High court tells government to allow opposition rally

President Robert Mugabe has reshuffled his cabinet, dropping his finance minister and appointing a new information minister, state media has announced. In a widely anticipated move, Mugabe replaced finance minister Herbert Murerwa with former indigenization minister Samuel Mumbengegwi, the official Herald newspaper said. The cabinet reshuffle came amid growing economic and social hardships in the southern African country, hit by the world's highest rate of inflation at more than 1,200 per cent, and spiralling poverty. "Comrade Mumbengegwi is expected to consolidate the economic turnaround roadmap together with the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono," the Herald said. Murerwa, a graduate of Harvard University, has been criticized by Mugabe in the past for his "textbook" approach to the country's dire economic problems. Late last year, Murerwa criticized Gono for engaging in what he called "quasi-fiscal" activities by funding government projects that did not fall within Murerwa's budget.
The new agriculture minister is veteran nationalist and ruling party legislator Rugare Gumbo. In a surprise move, Mugabe appointed a former deputy minister of higher education Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, to the key role of information minister. Ndlovu replaces the acting information minister Paul Mangwana, who has been reassigned to the Ministry of Indigenization and Empowerment. Mugabe also brought in three new deputy ministers. The new members of cabinet were due to be sworn into office later Wednesday, according to a statement by Mugabe's secretary that was broadcast on state radio. (dpa) The High Court has in the meantime ordered the government to let a major opposition rally go ahead, ruling that the police had been given adequate notice of the party's plans and must not try to stop the meeeting going ahead. The court hearing was in response to an urgent appeal by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change after its planned rally in a Harare township was banned because the police said they would not have enough manpower to monitor it. The MDC has said it will use the rally to launch its campaign for presidential elections due in March 2008 but which the ruling ZANU-PF party plans to put off to 2010. (Rts)

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