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The Ministry of Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education has not taken off, eight months after its establishment. Speculation is rife that this is yet another futile project which will draw plenty from taxpayer’s money, but yield next to nothing. As a government minister, Josiah Hungwe, the man at the helm of the ministry, does not come cheap at all to the embattled taxpayer.

He is entitled to a competitive salary, a Mercedes Benz, an all-terrain 4X4 vehicle, government-rented accommodation in one of Harare’s posh suburbs and other feather beddings that go with his sinecure position. Thirty-two weeks on since appointment of the minister, the ministry has failed to announce its plans and projections, confirming fears that there is really no ministry to talk about.

While other ministers hit the ground running, announcing changes in their relevant ministries and discussing their plans, the same cannot be said of Hungwe who a fortnight ago said he had done consultations and nothing more beyond that. “I have done everything to fulfil my mandate… I did consultations with various stakeholders, was with the disabled and went to various vocational training centres. I also consulted the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education on how to introduce vocational skills to school children as early as possible. Only last week I was at the School of Mines,” Hungwe said.

He was, however, not in a position to spell out how he intends to implement the long overdue programme. The Psychomotor Ministry was created on the basis of balancing academic and vocational learning at institutions. The Ministry is also expected to incorporate the sports and arts field to ensure the country becomes skills-sufficient in these fields. Few believe the ministry has got any relevance. To many, it is yet another example whereby ministries end up duplicating each other’s functions.

In this case, analysts argue that the activities of the Psychomotor Ministry could easily be shared between the Ministries of Higher Education and that of Primary and Secondary education. More so when the government is so thin on resources to run another layer of bureaucracy like the Psychomotor Ministry. To a lot of people, there is more to it than meets the eye behind the creation of this superfluous structure.

One school of thought argues that Hungwe’s ministry would not deliver anything meaningful as it was a balancing act by President Robert Mugabe to “create jobs for the boys” and balance factional expectations in his ZANU PF party. They said the polarity of the politics in Masvingo was such that the ZANU-PF leader needed to accommodate all the “big guns” in the province, namely Dzikamai Mavhaire, who was given the Energy Ministry, and Hungwe.

Hungwe is linked to a faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa while Mavhaire is said to belong to the Joice Mujuru faction. Both factions are scheming to succeed President Mugabe in the event that he exits the political stage. “What more could you expect from Hungwe who from the start did not know what his Ministry entails? It is just a ceremonial Ministry. Look at what other Ministries have done, bringing some policies — though controversial — but for Hungwe he is just quiet. I also wonder how that will be achieved given the bad state of the economy,” said Progressive Teachers Union president, Takavafira Zhou.

This is not the first time that President Mugabe has created a ministry with no apparent usefulness. At the turn of the millennium, President Mugabe created the Ministry of Public and Interactive Affairs and appointed Chen Chimutengwende as minister for it. What is becoming apparent as in the case of Hungwe’s Psychomotor Ministry is that the creation of these ministries has a political rather than economic or social agenda.

The Public Interactive Affairs Ministry was abandoned when Chimutengwende lost his Parliamentary seat in 2008. And when the unity government came into being in 2009, more sinecure ministries were created to accommodate the three parties, ZANU-PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change formations — in the compromise administration. And when the coalition government ended last year, economic pundits were expecting President Mugabe to trim the size of his administration by doing away with provincial governors and other ministries whose functions could easily be hived off into departments within certain ministries.

Provincial governors came back as Provincial Affairs Ministers while the introduction of the Psychomotor Ministry came as another surprise. Analysts said the controversial ministries were simply vehicles either for “jobs for boys”, ethnic balancing or suspected entities to channel funds from government to fund ZANU-PF programmes. While the ministries will gobble up a chunk of almost non-existent resources from the fiscus — for a package for the minister, complete with top of the range vehicles, housing, various allowances, cell phone and more for staff in the ministry — very little benefit is derived by the nation from the same. Zhou said he was really not expecting miracles from the Psychomotor Ministry.

According to Hungwe, as of last month the ministry had a skeletal staff. President Mugabe has defended the establishment of the ministry saying it will provide the missing link in the education system. The need to impart vocational skills training simultaneously with academics to school children was born out of the recommendations of a 1999 government inquiry into education led by former University of Zimbabwe professor, Caiaphas Nziramasanga.

The Nziramasanga Commission which sought to evaluate the educational requirements of the country observed that the national core-curriculum was inclined towards academics and recommended the introduction of vocational skills training in secondary schools. With a literacy rate of over 90 percent, rated as one of the highest in Africa, Zimbabwe has suffered from massive brain drain and there has been no link between theory and practice. It had been hoped therefore that Hungwe’s ministry would tackle this anomaly.

With 32 weeks gone since its establishment, Hungwe has a mountain to climb to prove that his ministry is not another Public and Interactive Affairs Ministry, which was disbanded without anything to show for it.

Source : Financial Gazette

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