Ramaphosa’s picks impressive in the main
This week must have been the longest week for all the wouldbe ministers and their deputies, as they waited for the calls from presidency staff to confirm they had made the cut.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office issued a statement on Monday, stating that he would not be making any cabinet announcements until later in the week.
Midnight on Tuesday came and went with many hearing no word from Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the official presidential residence in Bryntirion Estate, Pretoria.
These included former ministers Bathabile Dlamini (women), Jeff Radebe (energy), Michael Masutha (justice), Rob Davies (trade & industry), Derek Hanekom (tourism), Susan Shabangu (social development), Senzeni Zokwana (agriculture), Mildred Oliphant (labour) and Tokozile Xasa (sport).
Tensions mounted even higher on Wednesday, when Ramaphosa said he would be announcing all the president’s men and women at 8pm.
Everyone was already aware that many portfolios would be trimmed to save costs.
But the question remained: from 36 down to what?
But as the hours went by without a call from the president’s office on Wednesday, it must have dawned on the likes of Xasa, Dlamini, Masutha and Davies that they had fallen out of favour and would not be receiving any text messages inviting them to Mahlamba Ndlopfu.
The president announced his executive at 9pm on Wednesday, reducing its size from 36 to 28 ministers.
But SA Federation of Trade Union (Saftu) secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi described the downscaling of ministries as a “hullabaloo”, saying the size of the cabinet is back to where it was “at the beginning of Jacob Zuma’s presidency and is 10 members more than what Nelson Mandela had between 1994 and 1999”.
Ramaphosa introduced two deputy ministers for a number of ministries he felt needed more hands.
Saftu said the cabinet size had remained the same because Ramaphosa overlooked the interests of the country of saving costs to accommodate ANC factions.
“The interests of the country have once again taken second position to ANC internal fractional dynamics,” said Vavi.
The inclusion of so many deputy ministers does put a strain on the already-bloated public service salary bill.
Ramaphosa has to be commended for having the courage to get rid of a number of those implicated in state capture, such as Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane.
But his decision to include Gwede Mantashe, David Mahlobo and Fikile Mbalula, who are also implicated in the state capture inquiry, came as a shock.
To rub salt in the wounds of those who expected the president to exclude everyone who has been implicated in acts of corruption, Pravin Gordhan retains his position at the helm of public enterprises.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane published a report last Friday that found Gordhan guilty of improper conduct after he granted an early retirement payout to then South African Revenue Service deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.
Gordhan wants the high court in Gauteng to review these findings.
Vavi said Ramaphosa’s decision to include Gordhan in his cabinet was inconsistent as the likes of Malusi Gigaba had to resign from office because of adverse findings made against them.
Vavi said: “We expected that the president would at least acknowledge that the public protector has made negative findings against minister Gordhan and explain why he has decided not to act in line with the directives of the office of the public protector.
“To just ignore her communicates a message to the country that her findings are immaterial and must be ignored in exactly the same way they were ignored by the ANC when a then powerful faction in charge ignored the previous public protector’s directives.
“If the president shows such disdain for the office of the public protector, why should ordinary citizens take that office seriously in the future?”
Saftu is equally concerned that “to the best of our knowledge, people like Fikile Mbalula, who were condemned by the public protector, threatened to challenge the findings and went dead silent as soon as the attention shifted to something else”.
“Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba should be asking questions as to what it is that they have done differently to others,” Vavi added.
There may be a few somewhat “rotten potatoes” in this bag, but the retained Tito Mboweni as finance minister, now with the highly regarded David Masondo as his deputy, is not among them.
Also laudably introduced new blood is Ronald Lamola and the likes of Noxolo Kiviet as cabinet ministers and deputies, especially now that the team comprises 50% women.
Ramaphosa has to be commended also for his bold decision to appoint GOOD political party leader Patricia de Lille as minister of public works and infrastructure, a decision that caught both the EFF and DA by surprise.
This is the very De Lille who blew the whistle on the arms deal, a case which saw ANC bigwig Tony Yengeni being sentenced for receiving a bribe.
For Ramaphosa to turn around and appoint De Lille to such a strategic portfolio is very courageous.
The De Lille we know will be bold enough to instruct his officials to act against those who helped in amassing state resources to build the likes of a fire pool for former president Jacob Zuma.
His decision to have an “unholy” alliance with the Good Party through De Lille will also help the ANC deal with the absolute majority the DA has in the Western Cape and its big lead over the ANC in that important province.
Such a deal will be a thorn in the side of the DA in the lead-up to the next local government elections, which are due in two years’ time. De Lille has more than a measure of support among grassroots voters in the Western Cape.
De Lille will be a thorn in the DA’s side in the lead-up to the municipal elections