The shape of things to come
Two-tier post-election cabinet mooted
ANC PARTY President Jacob Zuma’s postelection cabinet looks set to be very different in size and shape to the current one. Apart from establishing a powerful new planning ministry, ANC sources have confirmed plans currently being mooted are for a two-tiered cabinet with several more ministers and deputy ministers.
Furthermore, in a bid to give weight to his promise of collective leadership, Zuma is expected to assemble a special “political alliance committee” (ANC, SA Communist Party and Cosatu members) to help him appoint ministers in a post-election cabinet.
The increase in the number of cabinet members is likely to come about due to two things: First, splitting some ministries, such as education, and increasing the number of deputy ministers in several ministries. The thinking behind more deputy ministers is apparently not just based on the need to allow more focused, possibly specialist attention in key areas. Wits Professor Susan Booysen agrees that augmenting the corps of deputy ministers could also be a way of grooming those with little government experience and increasing the pool from which to draw future ministers.
Second, the thinking by some analysts is that Zuma has some paying back to do at a political level. Additional deputy minister postings will allow Zuma (along with his political alliance committee) more space and flexibility when it comes to compensating those who brokered his ascendancy to the top ANC job.
The two-tier cabinet system being mooted is similar to the one proposed in 2005 by the ANC’s Joel Netshitenzhe, then policy chief in former President Thabo Mbeki’s office. Netshitenzhe’s tiered proposal was ditched in favour of one where ministries are currently clustered together according to their areas of work – economic, social or justice. The twotiered structure is likely to involve elevating some portfolios into “super ministries” that could include the new planning ministry.
Its aim? Improving co-ordination between government departments and to use State resources more efficiently. While that’s exactly what Mbeki’s system of “clustering” cabinet portfolios aimed to achieve, and while research confirms that the bigger problem is performance, managing and boosting the productivity of public servants, the ANC’s NEC member and former Sasol GM Max Sisulu (MA in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government) is tipped to be the minister in charge of the planning ministry.
Referring to a “political alliance committee” advising Zuma on his cabinet, Professor Sipho Seepe says it would give expression to Zuma’s idea of collective leadership, as opposed to Mbeki’s style, which Seepe criticises as an exclusive one based on a clique of his close allies. “This is Zuma saying ‘I’m different’,” says Seepe.
Mbeki’s fans take umbrage. While they argue his cabinet included a representative spread of leaders from the Communist and trades union movement, the key question in such squabbles is whether the committee of alliance members Zuma chooses to consult with will not be exactly the opposite of what it’s billed to be – a clique of like-minded “100 percent JZ” people.
While the composition of that committee will be telling, a hint of who is being considered for cabinet will be revealed when the ANC makes its election list public: the top 25 names are usually indicative of who will be in cabinet. That excludes what many expect to be some senior ANC figures who will be at the top of the list even though the party has “no intention” of them being in cabinet. Speculation is that this will be done to quell any thoughts these figures have of “disengaging from party work” (read: defecting to COPE). Education Minister Naledi Pandor is believed to fall into that category.
SACP general secretary and former Parliament education portfolio committee chairman Blade Nzimande is being touted as possibly one of two education ministers. Because education is one of the ANC manifesto’s three primary areas of focus – along with health and crime – the proposal is to put tertiary education under one minister and give the other sole focus on schools.
As for the other priority areas/possible “super ministries”, Barbara Hogan is expected to remain Health Minister. The same goes for current Safety & Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
While Luthuli House expects its NEC will have finally approved its election lists that emerged from the recent list conference by mid-February, even Zuma’s critics in the ruling party acknowledge the “political alliance committee” is indeed a nice touch. The question is how convincing it will be when it comes to living up to its promise: both of real inclusivity and rewarding skill above all.