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Zimbabwe President Fires Finance Minister - 2002-08-25


Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has appointed a new Cabinet, and fired his finance minister, Simba Makoni.

Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni told the country two months ago that devaluation of the almost worthless Zimbabwe dollar was the only way for economic survival.

When Mr. Mugabe opened parliament last month, he said, anyone who called for the devaluation of the currency was an "enemy of the state" and a "saboteur."

Political analyst Brian Raftopoulos said Mr. Makoni's departure was predictable. He said his rational statements, attempts at transparency and desire to engage the international community were irrelevent to Mr. Mugabe. He said Mr. Mugabe's priorities were to consolidate power.

Economist John Robertson said Mr. Mugabe wanted a finance minister who would not complain, as he wanted unquestioning control of policies and implementation in the last phases of seizure of white-owned land.

More than two years ago, diplomats from neighboring South Africa let it be known that Mr. Makoni was seen as a rational and coherent alternative to Mr. Mugabe.

The president has retained his hard-line cabinet ministers, including Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, the architect of the government's repressive press laws.

Mr. Mugabe has so far not indicated whether his ageing and ailing two vice-presidents would be replaced. This, political analysts say, has put the question of succession to Mr. Mugabe, who is 78, on the back burner.

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