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Observers Say Zimbabwe Cabinet Shuffle Unlikely To Change Much

President Robert Mugabe swore in a new cabinet on Wednesday after a reshuffle of his ministers late Tuesday in which the main casualty was Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa, replaced by the former indigenization minister, Samuel Mumbengegwi.

Critics said the new cabinet has no new faces and is unlikely to make a difference.

Mumbengegwi's background is in education rather than economics or finance, leading some to conclude that the real winner in the recomposition of the cabinet was Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, who frequently clashed with Murerwa over policy.

The specific reasons for Murerwa's departure were not clear. Some insiders said he had resigned out of frustration. Murerwa declined to comment on the changes.

Rugare Gumbo, formerly minister of economic development, took over the troubled agriculture portfolio from Joseph Made, sent to head the Ministry of State Agricultural Engineering and Mechanization. Sikhanyiso Ndlovu was promoted to information minister and Sylvester Nguni was named minister of economic development.

Flanked by vice presidents Joyce Mujuru and Joseph Msika, Mr. Mugabe said he was hopeful that his new ministerial team could stabilize the economy, now imploding with inflation over 1,200%, joblessness over 80% and labor unrest widespread.

Mr. Mugabe called opposition forces that have stepped up protests “deranged and in the wilderness." The president warned that he would crush dissent.

Senior Researcher Sydney Masamvu with the International Crisis Group in Pretoria, South Africa, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mugabe had simply recycled the old guard.

Secretary General Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai said the only real solution is Mr. Mugabe's resignation.

Priscilla Misihairmabwi Mushonga, deputy secretary general of the opposition faction headed by Arthur Mutambara, said the cabinet reshuffle was a non-event meant only to disguise Murerwa's dismissal.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...