Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent appointments of his family members to key government positions have raised serious concerns about nepotism, patronage, and the erosion of meritocracy in the country’s leadership. This brazen act of favoritism not only threatens the integrity of the government but also the well-being of its citizens.

Mnangagwa’s decision to appoint his son, Kudakwashe Mnangagwa, as deputy Finance minister and his nephew, Tongai Mnangagwa, as Tourism deputy minister, has sent shockwaves through Zimbabwean society. These individuals lack the necessary track records and qualifications for the positions they now hold, casting doubt on the government’s commitment to merit-based appointments.

Furthermore, Mnangagwa has surrounded himself with a coterie of relatives, friends, and cronies, turning the entire cabinet into a network of individuals connected by clan affiliations and personal relationships. This alarming trend is reminiscent of dictatorships and autocracies worldwide, where leaders prioritize personal interests over the welfare of their nations.

In contrast to his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, who, despite his excesses, rarely appointed family members to government positions, Mnangagwa’s actions have exceeded all bounds of propriety. Notably, one of his twin sons even serves as an army captain, blurring the lines between political power and military authority.

Another troubling aspect of this nepotistic practice is the involvement of Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia, who appears to wield significant influence despite not holding any official public office. Her participation in government affairs, such as representing Zimbabwe in international visits, raises questions about the separation of powers and accountability.

Mnangagwa’s actions align him with a disconcerting group of leaders worldwide who have abused their power and office for personal gain. This includes the likes of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and Donald Trump, among others. Such behavior epitomizes corruption, kakistocracy (rule by the least competent), and kleptocracy (rule by thieves).

This situation in Zimbabwe underscores several critical issues, including the erosion of meritocracy, the prevalence of a “our time to eat mentality” marked by greed and corruption, leadership succession, and the looming threat of a family dynasty. Beyond these concerns, it raises questions about the ethical character of Mnangagwa’s leadership.

One of the paramount responsibilities of a president is to professionalize government institutions, ensuring their efficiency and service delivery to benefit citizens. Turning public service into a family affair or a personal feeding trough not only hinders this goal but also jeopardizes the welfare of Zimbabweans.

Zimbabweans must not acquiesce to such blatant nepotism, as it can lead to disastrous consequences, including incompetence, poor service delivery, and rampant looting. When coupled with misrule, it further exacerbates poverty and suffering among the populace.

The argument that appointments are acceptable as long as individuals are qualified in their respective fields remains problematic. Ultimately, it is the president or another public official who makes these appointments, leaving room for nepotism to thrive.

To prevent the continued erosion of governance and meritocracy, Zimbabwe should consider implementing laws or norms that explicitly prohibit nepotism in the public service. The United States’ anti-nepotism law, passed in 1967, serves as a potential model to prevent the appointment of relatives to government positions and maintain the integrity of public office.

Mnangagwa’s blatant nepotism threatens Zimbabwe’s governance, meritocracy, and the well-being of its citizens. It is essential for the nation to confront this issue head-on, enacting safeguards against such abuses of power to ensure a fair and accountable government that truly serves the people. The future of Zimbabwe’s democracy depends on it.

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