What I think South Africa’s new cabi­net should re­ally look like

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION - Den­nis Pather

IN A mer­i­toc­racy, tal­ent and com­pe­tence are sup­posed to rise to the top. In this way, crit­i­cal min­is­te­rial po­si­tions in gov­ern­ment and other piv­otal roles, such as pub­lic pro­tec­tor, po­lice com­mis­sioner and di­rec­tor of prose­cu­tions, can be filled by the peo­ple best equipped for the job. Right?

Well, if only pol­i­tics could be as sim­ple as that. The sad re­al­ity is that we don’t live in a mer­i­toc­racy and po­si­tions in the cabi­net have largely been filled by peo­ple re­warded more for their slav­ish loy­alty to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and the rul­ing ANC than their com­pe­tence and suit­abil­ity to their tasks.

In short, it’s not a mat­ter of what you know, but who you know – and how far back­ward you’re pre­pared to bend over to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple who put you there.

Which is why I’ve de­cided to serve my coun­try in a com­pletely new role – that of a hum­ble cabi­net maker,

No, not the ar­ti­san type in­volv­ing tools, joints and ve­neers.

Now that there’s been a change of guard in the ANC lead­er­ship, I’ve of­fered to help the new in­cum­bent, Cyril Ramaphosa, as­sem­ble a new cabi­net to run the coun­try when he takes over as pres­i­dent.

But as any cabi­net-maker worth his salt will tell you, the first task in­volves get­ting rid of dead wood which serve no use­ful pur­pose.

So, hit­ting the junk heap will be sev­eral in­ef­fec­tive and un­pro­duc­tive min­is­ters – the usual sus­pects who can be in­stantly recog­nised from the cap­tured look on their faces.

Task num­ber two is stream­lin­ing what is today a rather wob­bly, lop­sided and bloated cabi­net. So out go the deputies, with their fat-cat salaries, chauf­feur-driven Ben­zes, free houses and all-ex­penses-paid travel.

And while we’re at it, re­align­ment is cru­cial, which may in­volve col­laps­ing one or two port­fo­lios and amal­ga­mat­ing them with oth­ers.

Other ques­tions that need an­swers are: can a bi­par­ti­san cabi­net work?

Do we re­ally need pro­vin­cial struc­tures or should we con­cen­trate on a strong and ef­fi­cient cen­tral gov­ern­ment and met­ros with far greater pow­ers and bud­gets?

Okay, now it’s time to slot the right peo­ple in the right po­si­tions so that the coun­try – and not po­lit­i­cal par­ties or self-serv­ing politi­cians – pros­per.

Here’s my pro­vi­sional list of wise men and women I be­lieve will do a bet­ter job res­cu­ing our coun­try from the ig­nominy and penury of junk sta­tus.

In com­pil­ing this list, I sought ad­vice and sug­ges­tions from a wide range of opin­ion-mak­ers, in­clud­ing prom­i­nent politi­cians, pro­fes­sion­als and aca­demics, some of whose di­rect quotes I have in­cluded ran­domly.

I, how­ever, avoided con­sult­ing the Gupta em­ploy­ment agency sim­ply be­cause I’m al­ler­gic to men car­ry­ing black bags.

Here goes:


Ramaphosa, whose pro­file and rep­u­ta­tion in busi­ness and pol­i­tics will sat­isfy the de­mands of both white and black mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal.

DEPUTY PRES­I­DENT: Two clear favourites emerge in Lindiwe Sisulu (“She’s got the balls and pedi­gree for the job”) and Zweli Mkhize (“One of the few in the ANC with cred­i­bil­ity and some­one who would be wel­comed by the KZN fac­tion of the party”).

FI­NANCE: Although Pravin Gord­han ap­pears a firm favourite, it may be his for­mer deputy, Mce­bisi Jonas, who gets the nod. “He’s a good and hon­est politi­cian and is knowl­edge­able about fi­nance. Be­sides, any­one who can turn down R600mil­lion from the Gup­tas must be clean,” quipped one re­spon­dent.

While on the sub­ject of fi­nance, there were strong calls for the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to drive the an­ticor­rup­tion cam­paign over the next five years.

“When peo­ple over­seas joke that we have the best gov­ern­ment that money can buy, it’s just not funny any more,” re­marked an op­po­si­tion politi­cian.

Calls were also made for white busi­ness lead­ers to play a more di­rect role in build­ing a new South Africa.


This is where Gord­han comes in. “Sort­ing out the un­holy mess in this depart­ment is akin to clean­ing up the Augean sta­bles which calls for a su­per min­is­ter like PG.”

JUS­TICE: Among the strong sug­ges­tions were re­tired ju­rists Dik­gang Moseneke and Bess Nk­abinde, as well as sit­ting judge Dun­stan Mlambo.

ED­U­CA­TION: Sev­eral con­tenders for higher ed­u­ca­tion in­clud­ing for­mer Free State vicechan­cel­lor Jonathan Jansen and Ahmed Bawa (chief ex­ec­u­tive of Unisa).

Among those talked about for ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion were Gaut­eng Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi (“I’m very im­pressed with how firm and de­ci­sive he’s been in many tricky sit­u­a­tions”) and Mary Met­calfe who, peo­ple say, may be pre­dis­posed to work­ing with op­po­si­tion par­ties in gov­ern­ment and vice versa.

TRADE AND IN­DUS­TRY: No ob­vi­ous can­di­dates, just a word of ad­vice from a sea­soned politi­cian: “Give the po­si­tion to a cen­tral­ist as all the left thinkers have failed.”

COM­MU­NI­CA­TION: While the gen­eral con­sen­sus was “any­one but Faith Muthambi”, whose stint in the job was noth­ing short of a pub­lic re­la­tions night­mare, there ap­peared a strong lobby for for­mer min­is­ter Yunus Car­rim. “He’s well-re­spected, in­cor­rupt­ible and in­tel­li­gent enough to cope with the tech­ni­cal in­tri­ca­cies of our long over­due dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion. He’s held the po­si­tion be­fore and so can hit the ground run­ning.”

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL RE­LA­TIONS: No clear favourites, but sur­prise, sur­prise, Gord­han’s name cropped up again. “He’s the dar­ling of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and can sell South Africa when its im­age is at a low.”

YOUTH MIN­ISTRY: A new port­fo­lio tai­lor-made for EFF deputy pres­i­dent Floyd Shivambu. “Come on Floyd, your in­tel­lect has more value in the ANC than in op­po­si­tion,” chirped an ANC stal­wart.

PUB­LIC PRO­TEC­TOR: Among names men­tioned were for­mer UDF stal­wart the Rev Frank Chikane; Judge Nathan Eras­mus (Cape divi­sion); and ad­vo­cate Tem­beka Ngcukaitobi, who one re­spon­dent urged to quit pri­vate prac­tice to serve his coun­try and his peo­ple.

NA­TIONAL DI­REC­TOR OF PUB­LIC PROSE­CU­TIONS: No con­test – Thuli Madon­sela.

HOME AF­FAIRS: Gwede Man­tashe. “He is ob­vi­ously a good ad­min­is­tra­tor af­ter hav­ing suc­cess­fully man­aged that mob at Luthuli House for that long. He may be up to the job.”

HEALTH: Most set­tled for Aaron Mot­soaledi, who they say talks a lot but has his heart in the right place.

PO­LICE: For­mer Ipid head Fran­cois Beuk­man.

NA­TIONAL IN­TEL­LI­GENCE: Ron­nie Kas­rils, if age isn’t against him.

SO­CIAL DE­VEL­OP­MENT: Any­one but Batha­bile Dlamini. Pro­fes­sor Male­ga­puru Mak­goba would make an ideal min­is­ter. What about Makhosi Khoza?

AGRI­CUL­TURE: A good job for Derek Hanekom, who could serve as a use­ful ne­go­tia­tor on land re­dis­tri­bu­tion.

DE­FENCE: To pro­mote mul­ti­party democ­racy, why not MDM leader Bantu Holomisa?

LO­CAL GOV­ERN­MENT: Paul Mashatile (“As one of the ANC’s Top Six, he’d be a pop­u­lar choice and it would please the Gaut­eng fac­tion”).

SPORT: Wide open; sig­nif­i­cantly, no votes for Mr Blus­ter, Fik­ile Mbalula, nor zeal for Safa boss Danny Jor­daan or Sas­coc head Tubby Reddy, who’ve been in the lime­light re­cently for all the wrong rea­sons.

CUL­TURE: Who else but Evita Bezuiden­hout?

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