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and said he had re­quested an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into farm mur­ders. Sisulu did not hes­i­tate in speak­ing out against the leader of the world’s most pow­er­ful coun­try, dis­miss­ing the tweet as a “down­right fabri­ca­tion” and “an in­sult that has no mea­sure”.

Trump hasn’t tweeted again, which is prob­a­bly for the best.

But Sisulu’s brief ten­ure can­not be de­scribed as an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess. One mis­step was the ab­sten­tion from a United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly vote con­demn­ing the on­go­ing geno­cide against the Ro­hingya in Myan­mar. Sisulu sub­se­quently re­versed this po­si­tion and said South Africa planned to take a stronger stand on hu­man rights is­sues in the fu­ture.

And, like her pre­de­ces­sor,

Sisulu can­not seem to shake the ghost of Thabo Mbeki’s in­fa­mous “quiet diplo­macy” in the South­ern African re­gion. Nowhere is this more ap­par­ent than with re­gard to Zim­babwe, where con­tro­ver­sial elec­tions were met with noth­ing but pro-forma state­ments from the min­is­ter and her depart­ment, and in the run-up to De­cem­ber’s elec­tion in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

South Africa’s pub­lic si­lence has been sharply crit­i­cised by Con­golese op­po­si­tion and di­as­pora groups, who view it as a tacit en­dorse­ment of Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s at­tempts to re­tain power.

Af­ter less than a year in of­fice, Sisulu has yet to put a de­fin­i­tive mark on the po­si­tion. Early signs, how­ever, sug­gest that she is a steady pair of hands in an in­ter­na­tional arena that is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly more com­pli­cated and un­pre­dictable.

Too early to grade

Ap­pointed in Fe­bru­ary this year as sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy min­is­ter, Mmamoloko Kubayi-ngubane was the min­is­ter of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for four months and be­fore that the min­is­ter of en­ergy for six months.

It has been that kind of two years. Be­sides the blun­der of hav­ing been one of Jacob Zuma’s de­fend­ers dur­ing the Nkandla saga, Kubayin­gubane car­ries with her a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a staunch pro­cesses per­son.

More­over, she has in­her­ited a squeaky-clean depart­ment from her pre­de­ces­sor, Naledi Pan­dor, who has gone on to be the min­is­ter of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Kubayi-ngubane’s bud­get of R7.8bil­lion is an in­crease of roughly R300mil­lion from the pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial year. Of this fig­ure, about 8% is for ad­min­is­tra­tive costs and 92% goes into trans­fers and sub­si­dies — close to 40% of that go­ing to pub­lic en­ti­ties in the form of a par­lia­men­tary grant.

Key among her con­cerns are re­search and de­vel­op­ment as well as set­ting out a path for long-term pol­icy de­vel­op­ment in the form of the new draft white pa­per, which went out for pub­lic com­ment in Septem­ber.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, the min­is­ter’s pro­file is on the rise. She was nom­i­nated to serve as a mem­ber of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s global ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence coun­cil, a role likely to in­clude pol­icy de­vel­op­ment work among the part­ners that make up the coun­cil.

TOKOZILE XASA Min­is­ter of Sport and Re­cre­ation

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Tokozile Xasa came into a depart­ment with a good ad­min­is­tra­tive his­tory and once again the re­sults are favourable.

Of the R1.02-bil­lion al­lo­cated to it, 99.4% was spent. More than R700-mil­lion went to the de­vel­op­ment of sport in a bid to build an “ac­tive na­tion”. The score from the au­di­tor gen­eral was favourable and no unau­tho­rised, fruit­less or waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture was re­ported.

Xasa has weighed in on ev­ery sport­ing con­tro­versy the coun­try experienced dur­ing her ten­ure, from the South African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s (Safa’s) messy elec­tions to the Ash­win Willemse de­ba­cle.

It would seem we have her to thank for lo­cal foot­ball ap­pear­ing on ra­dio once more: it was af­ter her in­ter­ven­tion that a stub­born SABC ra­dio and the Pre­mier Soc­cer League de­cided to share their toys again.

Where she loses points is that too of­ten the talk­ing is where it ends. It’s early in her ten­ure, but she needs to start ask­ing dif­fi­cult ques­tions about what sovereignty means for our lead­ing sports fed­er­a­tions, which have for too long op­er­ated with im­punity.

There is also a huge broad­cast­ing mess brew­ing be­tween the SABC and Safa that she would do well to tidy up in what will be an im­por­tant next few months of sport.

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