Pravin tie riles some as Cyril beefs up of­fice

‘Mi­nori­ties’ hold too much sway, say pres­i­dent’s crit­ics

Sunday Times - - News Politics - By CAI­PHUS KGOSANA [email protected]­day­times.co.za

● Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s de­ci­sion to ap­point a for­mer in­law of Pravin Gord­han as his new chief of staff is fuelling per­cep­tions that the for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter wields too much in­flu­ence in the Union Build­ings.

Roshene Singh, who was mar­ried to Gord­han’s nephew Ketso Gord­han, will re­place chief of staff Bu­sani Ng­caweni, who is to head the new pol­icy unit in the Pres­i­dency.

But this has raised con­cern in some quar­ters that the new ap­point­ment gives Gord­han, now pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter, too much prox­im­ity to power.

Singh ran the ANC elec­tions ma­chin­ery in 1999 and worked at South African Tourism. She cur­rently works at Luthuli House as elec­tions co-or­di­na­tor.

But crit­ics in the ANC say that by mak­ing this ap­point­ment, the pres­i­dent is play­ing into the hands of those who be­lieve he is con­trolled by cer­tain el­e­ments.

There is dis­con­tent among those who cam­paigned for Ramaphosa to be­come ANC pres­i­dent, with some feel­ing over­looked. “The pres­i­dent is fac­ing se­ri­ous chal­lenges within; his ap­point­ments are be­ing scru­ti­nised,” said an ANC insider who asked not to be named. “The na­tional ques­tion is be­ing used against him. It is a big is­sue. He needs to ex­or­cise him­self of the the­ory that he likes mi­nori­ties and they are in­flu­en­tial.”

The “na­tional ques­tion” re­fers to the im­bal­ance of eco­nomic power be­tween races. EFF leader Julius Malema said Singh’s ap­point­ment gave cre­dence to his party’s claims that Gord­han had be­come more pow­er­ful un­der the Ramaphosa pres­i­dency.

“This thing just con­firms what we have been say­ing, that this guy is the one who is in charge. Now he has de­ployed in the pres­i­dent’s of­fice di­rectly from his fam­ily so the pres­i­dent can be mon­i­tored and he can mi­cro­man­age from a dis­tance.”

Malema told jour­nal­ists last week that Ramaphosa was “use­less” by al­low­ing a min­is­ter to be­come as pow­er­ful as Gord­han.

How­ever, those close to Gord­han said he was not close to his nephew and that Singh was a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist in her own right.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions, Gord­han said he was be­ing used as a pawn by those seek­ing to dis­credit the pres­i­dent. “The real is­sue at stake is a sin­is­ter and dan­ger­ous cam­paign to un­der­mine the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa and use ev­ery dirty trick in the book to dis­credit the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to get South Africa back on track as far as eco­nomic growth, jobs and in­vest­ment is con­cerned. I am, it would seem, a use­ful pawn to use as an ob­ject of var­i­ous at­tacks.

“I do not in­tend to re­spond com­pre­hen­sively. I will do so at the ap­pro­pri­ate time to ex­pose the ne­far­i­ous in­ten­tions of those in­volved,” said Gord­han.

Ramaphosa has re­tained Cas­sius Lu­bisi as di­rec­tor-gen­eral in the Pres­i­dency and the search is on to re­place chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Lakela Kaunda, who has joined Zweli Mkhize at co-op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance.

Other new ap­point­ments in Ramaphosa’s of­fice at the Union Build­ings in­clude Be­jani Chauke and Steyn Speed as po­lit­i­cal ad­vis­ers, Donné Ni­col as spe­cial ad­viser, Khulu Mbatha as in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions ad­viser, Nokukhanya Jele as le­gal ad­viser, Charles Nqakula as se­cu­rity ad­viser, Olive Shisana as so­cial pol­icy ad­viser and Ger­hard Koorn­hof as par­lia­men­tary coun­sel­lor.

At ANC head­quar­ters, Ramaphosa has brought in for­mer Lim­popo pre­mier Ngoako Ra­matl­hodi as le­gal ad­viser and Mar­ion Sparg as head of mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion. For­mer po­lit­i­cal pris­oner Sparg made head­lines in 2003 when, as CEO of the NPA, she was ac­cused of ten­der-rig­ging and nepo­tism. The charges were dropped in 2007.

A se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial praised some of the ap­point­ments for bring­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and sta­bil­ity. “The pres­i­dent recog­nised that there was no depth in the ad­vi­sory team so he brought in ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple such as Nqakula, Shisana and Mbatha.

“He also wants to build the in­tel­lec­tual cred­i­bil­ity of the in­sti­tu­tion, but he needs peo­ple who can be hon­est in their cri­tique.”

Ramaphosa has placed a huge fo­cus on re­build­ing the state and at­tract­ing for­eign in­vest­ment. He se­cured a $20-bil­lion (R134­bil­lion) prom­ise of in­vest­ment in South Africa’s oil and gas sec­tor from Saudi Ara­bia dur­ing a Mid­dle East state visit this week.

Pres­i­den­tial spokes­woman Khusela Diko de­clined to com­ment on the new ap­point­ments as they are yet to be con­firmed and an­nounced pub­licly.

Pic­ture: GCIS

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa at a United Arab Emi­rates-South Africa Busi­ness Fo­rum dur­ing his state visit to the UAE this week. The pres­i­dent has se­cured prom­ises of a to­tal of $20-bil­lion in in­vest­ment from the UAE and Saudi Ara­bia.

Roshene Singh

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