INSIDE THE RESHUFFLE: There was method behind the madness
It's not Cyril Ramaphosa's dream team yet - but don't give up on the dream too soon
President Cyril Ramaphosa had a tough job to balance competing interests of politics and governance when he reshuffled his cabinet on Monday evening.
His announcement was met with a mix of nods and shock by political players and observers alike.
Ramaphosa’s reshuffle named controversial former Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza as his deputy.
It seemed he had no choice in this regard. Mabuza is his deputy in the ANC so all counter arguments to his appointment fell flat.
In his late-night announcement, Ramaphosa fired 10 ministers but it was those who he opted to retain in his cabinet that caused concern.
He raised many people’s ire when he kept controversial minister Bathabile Dlamini in his government, moving her from Social Development to Minister in the Presidency responsible for women.But he had to compete against the interest of the ANC’s Women’s League who would have insisted that she be retained in office.
This move, however, is seen by those close to Ramaphosa as a bid to disarm Dlamini while appeasing her constituency in the Women’s League.
At the Social Development Department she was in charge of a budget in excess of R200-billion, while, in her new role, the annual budget is a little less that R200-million. Many of her detractors have suggested that Ramaphosa put her into a ministry that would soon be done away with.
The retention of Nomvula Mokonyane, too, was linked to having women in the cabinet as the lobby of the Women’s League.
However, on Tuesday the ANCWL issued a statement decrying the lack of gender parity in the executive.
It was for similar political reasons that Ramaphosa had to reinstate SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande into cabinet. He is the new minister of Transport.
Ramaphosa had to be weary of the tension between the ANC and the SACP that reached a pinnacle after former president Jacob Zuma fired Nzimande last year.
It was at the motivation of the SACP that SACP leaders Thulas Nxesi and Senzeni Zokwana were retained in cabinet.
ANC alliance partner Cosatu would also have had their opinions on who should be retained and who should be axed.
Cosatu had long gunned for Mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane and the National Union of Mineworkers welcomed Gwede Mantashe’s appointment to that position.
Mantashe was the former general secretary of the NUM.
While those around Ramaphosa have justified his decision to effectively fire a third of cabinet, reshuffle around a third and retain a third, many people remain dissatisfied.
The firing of former Police minister Fikile Mbalula while the retention of former Finance minister Malusi Gigaba - who is now Home Affairs minister - is one of the decisions announced that has yet to be explained.Of those who were fired, three ministers who are directly linked to state capture faced the chop: Zwane, Des van Rooyen and Lynne Brown. Former deputy minister Ben Martins, who has been linked to the Guptas, also got the axe.
Former ministers Faith Muthambi, David Mahlobo and Nathi Nhleko were repeatedly called out for their incompetence and their blind defence of wrongdoing under the Zuma administration.
Minister Bongani Bongo was fired four months into his job as Intelligence minister. That came as no surprise as he is under criminal investigation.
Interestingly, Bongo and fired deputy minister Thandi Mahambehlala were lone voices in the ANC NEC meeting three weeks ago arguing against former president Jacob Zuma’s removal from office. It makes political sense that they faced the chop.
Hlengiwe Mkhize and Joe Maswanganyi were fired barely a year after their appointments as ministers in a cabinet reshuffle by Zuma with which Ramaphosa publicly disagreed. They were not supposed to be in cabinet anyway, a Ramaphosa ally said.
As for the new appointments, Ramaphosa had to balance those who supported his campaign with the efficiency of those individuals.New Police Minister Bheki Cele’s appointment was seen as a repayment for the support that saw Ramaphosa elected ANC president.
While Nhanhla Nene’s re-appointment as Finance minister was more about his ability to do the job than politics.
Appointing his once political rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as minister in the presidency, is widely seen as an effort to politically disarm her.
Zweli Mkhize’s appointment to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, too, was part of the tricky balance between appeasing political interests and competence in government.
Now that the deed is done, Ramaphosa will have to carefully judge whether the decisions he made, both willingly and hesitantly, are in the best interests of South Africa.
This cabinet has 14 months to turn things around or risk reduced power when the ANC gets to the polls next year.
This may not have been Ramaphosa’s dream team, but, judging by his utterances in parliament, this is a transitional cabinet he had to appoint with the cards he had been dealt.
Next year, it seems, Ramaphosa will want to sweep clean.