Mnangagwa’s appointment of Ncube is reminiscent of former President Robert Mugabe’s 2000 cabinet, which notably brought in Nkosana Moyo, also a technocratic outsider, as industry minister.
Moyo quit his post in a huff the following year, after fights over policy. Simba Makoni, a reformist ZANU-PF official appointed Finance Minister along with Moyo, did not last much longer either, after falling out with Mugabe over economic policy.
Mugabe memorably chided Moyo, in particular, for resigning from cabinet, accusing him of having a weak chin.
Ncube comes into government after telegraphing the tough choices needed to rescue the economy – scrapping the bond notes and capping excessive expenditure.
It remains to be seen how much room he will be given in that respect, but the country will not have to wait for long to find out — the 2019 national budget is due in just weeks.
Ncube has said the first order of business would be to craft a clear economic vision and strategy to create an economy that exhibits strong GDP growth, averaging 6% annually, over a period of 10 years.
Unlike former Industry Minister Moyo, Ncube does not come into cabinet without any experience of working with government.
In the early 2000s, Ncube was appointed chairman of the National Investment Trust (NIT), which was meant to warehouse the state’s shareholding in certain strategic economic sectors, such as mining, in terms of the government’s early indigenisation thrust.
At the time, NIT’s primary asset would have been a 15% stake in Zimplats, which it, however, failed to pay for.
Ncube was to launch an audacious, but ultimately futile, US$170 million bid for a 40% stake in Zimplats in August 2003.
But his deal-making instincts, which he will need as he navigates tricky terrain in government, saw Ncube successfully list his Barbican, then known as a small asset manager, on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange in 2004 following the reverse takeover of Haddon & Sly.
With a doctorate in Mathematical Finance on ‘pricing options under stochastic volatility’, the cerebral economist has an intimidating resume and impressive international contacts which the Mnangagwa government hopes to open some important doors as it seeks to re-engage global capital.
Ncube is also the HSBC Distinguished Professor of Banking and Finance at the Graduate School of Business Administration (Wits Business School), University of the Witwatersrand, on a part-time basis.
He has also lectured finance at the London School of Economics and is a visiting professor at Oxford’s Blavatnick school of governance.
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