Cabinet reshuffle: Cyril's undone some of the greatest wrongs
But it comes at a high price
In appointing Nhlanhla Nene as minister of Finance and Pravin Gordhan as minister of Public Enterprises, President Cyril Ramaphosa has not only made South Africa’s economic recovery his top priority, he also sought to undo the greatest wrongs committed by his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
The return of Nene and Gordhan to cabinet will be widely welcomed after Zuma unceremoniously ejected them as Finance ministers due to their defiance against state capture.
The president will also receive plaudits for firing a number of ministers who were appalling at their jobs and collaborated with the Guptas to loot the state. They are Lynne Brown, Faith Muthambi, Des van Rooyen and Mosebenzi Zwane,
Zuma’s chief henchman, David Mahlobo, also got the chop, as did the man who replaced him as State Security minister last year, Bongani Bongo.Hlengiwe Mkhize and Joe Maswanganyi were also dropped.
The most high-profile eviction from cabinet, possibly because he announced it himself, was Fikile Mbalula, who now takes up a fulltime position at the ANC headquarters as head of the party’s election campaign.
But some of Ramaphosa’s appointments are causing alarm and indicate that he did not have a completely free hand in choosing the executive.
Ramaphosa appointed Mpumalanga strongman and his deputy in the ANC David Mabuza as deputy president, bringing a man with a trail of corruption allegations behind him to within a heartbeat of South Africa’s top job.
Ramaphosa seems to have created a veritable hornet’s nest in the presidency. He appointed his main opponent in the ANC presidential race, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and her chief campaigner, Bathabile Dlamini, as ministers in the presidency.
There was widespread pressure, even within the ANC, for Ramaphosa to axe Dlamini after she created a shambles in the Social Development portfolio. She placed millions of social grant recipients at risk through her ineptitude and interference at the South Africa Social Security Agency, and was sanctioned by the Constitutional Court.
Ramaphosa also retained Nomvula Mokonyane, whose incompetence was widely evident in the Water Affairs portfolio, placing her in charge of the Department of Communications.
Malusi Gigaba also survived the reshuffle and returns to the Home Affairs portfolio where he previously acted in service of the Gupta family.
Gigaba’s former deputy in the Finance ministry, Sfiso Buthelezi, who is also haunted by corruption allegations, has been shifted laterally to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.The long-suffering mining sector will be stunned by the appointment of Gwede Mantashe as Mineral Resources minister. While the sector will be relieved to see the back of Zwane, Mantashe, who is also ANC chairman, is likely to be a tough operator as the new minister.
But many other appointments will bring relief.
Jeff Radebe as Energy minister means that South Africans can finally breathe a sigh of relief that the nuclear deal will not be slipped in under the table.
Bheki Cele is now South Africa’s chief crime fighter, and is likely to send the South African Police Services in hot pursuit of those involved in the state capture project. Naledi Pandor takes over the higher education and training portfolio and will work to bring stability to the troubled sector.
Derek Hanekom, who was axed in Zuma’s midnight reshuffle last March, returns to the Tourism portfolio.
Former ANC treasurer-general and presidential contender Zweli Mkhize joins the national government as minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Ramaphosa has promised a review of the configuration, size and number of national ministries and departments, and has in the meantime simply slotted people into the bloated executive that Zuma created.
While he has dispensed with some of the dead wood, Team Ramaphosa is not yet the picture of efficiency.
Judging by the look on the president’s face when he made the announcement late Monday night, Ramaphosa is patently aware that he has created somewhat of a dog’s breakfast around him.