Dr Simbarashe Herbert Stanley Makoni (Simba)

Dr Simbarashe Herbert Stanley Makoni (Simba)

Former Minister of Finance (2000-2002); 2008 Presidential Candidate

Date of Birth: 22/03/1950
Place of Birth: Mutare

Career: University of Zimbabwe but expelled for political activity, 1971; BSc chemistry and zoology, University of Leeds, UK, 1973; PhD medicinal chemistry, Leicester Polytechnic, UK, 1975; Deputy Minister of Agriculture, 1980-81; Minister of Industry and Energy Development 1981-83; Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, 1983-84; Executive Secretary, Southern African Development Community, 1984-93; Managing director, Zimbabwe Newspapers, 1994-97; Managing partner Makonsult,1997-; Minister of Finance and Economic Development, 2000-2002; candidate for the presidential elections campaigning under Mavambo/Kusile/ Dawn, 2008; First president, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, 2009-.

Commentary: Makoni was a leading political contender within the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front until he decided to contest the 2008 presidential elections under a movement called Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn. He was a political activist from his days at secondary school and became one of the youngest deputy ministers at independence in 1980. He was promoted to head the powerful Ministry of Industry and Energy the following year but then demoted to Minister of Youth after failing to solve the problem of fuel shortages.

When Makoni joined SADC in 1984 as its executive secretary, most people thought he had been selected by the Zimbabwean government for grooming for a higher post after completing his term. The SADC post raised his profile with international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other key donors, especially from the Scandinavian countries, but when he left SADC Makoni was given the job of managing Zimbabwe Newspapers, the country’s largest, but state-controlled, newspaper group. Makoni had been tipped to take over as Minister of Finance but observers believe he was sidelined by ZANU-PF heavyweights, including party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira, to keep him out of politics. Makoni eventually landed the post of Finance Minister in 2000 in what Mugabe dubbed a government of technocrats whose task was to rebuild the economy and shut out the new opposition Movement for Democratic Chang (MDC). But ZANU-PF hardliners thwarted all efforts by Makoni to transfor the economy, accusing him of being too liberal and too pro-West. Makoni was fired from the finance ministry but he kept a high profile because he was considered the only pragmatic, untainted candidate who could replace Mugabe and was a the same time acceptable to the MDC.

However, he was prevented him from contesting the party primaries for the Makoni Central seat for the 2008 elections. After plans to get a  replacement for Mugabe at the 2007 special congress failed, Makoni was forced to challenge him. It is believed that Makoni was backed by ZANU-PF heavyweights, mainly Solomon Mujuru, who had promised to resign from the party en masse to join him but they were outmanoeuvred by Mugabe and his campaign manager Emmerson Mnangagwa. The only prominent politician who joined Makoni was Dumiso Dabengwa.

Makoni could easily have won the presidential elections if Mujuru and Joseph Msika had openly supported him.  But they did not. Makoni lost dismally despite his well-oiled campaign machine. Most people viewed him as a ZANU-PF decoy, planted to sway the urban vote from the MDC. He garnered only 8 percent of the vote, and has been in the political doldrums since. Most people though he would resurrect under the inclusive government but that too flopped. Despite a reputation for being anti-corruption, Makoni remains in the political wilderness.