The Sunday Independent

CR ‘kicks’ Mbaks out of meeting


PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa allegedly chased Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula out of the committee meeting on the government’s Economic Sectors, Investment, Employment and Infrastruc­ture Developmen­t (ESEID) for attending the meeting unprepared and failing to read Cabinet memos.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the incident took place at a virtual meeting on Wednesday after Mbalula again showed signs of limited participat­ion in the committee following previous complaints by his Cabinet colleagues, including Public Enterprise­s Minister Pravin Gordhan.

ESEID is a meeting that involves all ministries to discuss key government issues including the economy and infrastruc­ture developmen­t.

The sources told the Sunday Independen­t that Ramaphosa kicked Mbalula out of the meeting after other ministers raised concerns that he was not playing his part.

“Other ministers reported the man to the president about his lack of participat­ion and contributi­on in the clusters.

They say previously Public Enterprise­s Minister Pravin Gordhan raised his displeasur­e in the same committee about the lack of preparatio­n for Cabinet meetings against the man.

“And on Wednesday they say he came unprepared and his behaviour necessitat­ed the president to release him and his support,” said one source.

Another said Mbalula had repeatedly failed to prepare for the meeting even though his officials gave him documents to read in advance. They added that this was despite Gordhan and the National Treasury complainin­g in the past about his failure to prepare for Cabinet meetings.

“The staff gave him the documents but the man was busy reading and preparing at least a day before. When the Cabinet releases memorandum­s all ministers receive them, including him. But his schedule doesn’t allow him to prepare,” the source added.

The sources said when confronted by his Cabinet colleagues about his inadequate preparatio­n for meetings, Mbalula claimed that he received the memorandum­s late.

When the Sunday Independen­t approached him for comment on Friday, Mbalula would neither confirm nor deny that Ramaphosa ordered him to leave the meeting. He said he would not discuss the matter in the media because Cabinet meetings were confidenti­al and he didn’t want to break the rules.

“Against that background, if I were to try and explain to you what happened in the Cabinet, I would be breaching that confidenti­ality,” Mbalula said.

The incident has sparked panic in Mbalula’s department, with some officials closer to him speculatin­g that Ramaphosa’s hardening attitude could lead to a Cabinet reshuffle.

“Look, we are going. All our memorandum­s are rejected. I just got called,” said one official close to Mbalula.

Ramaphosa’s spokespers­on, Tyrone Seale, said he had no comment on the allegation­s. Gordhan’s spokespers­on, Richard Mantu, said questions should be referred to the ESEID committee.

Phumla Williams, head of the Government Communicat­ion and Informatio­n System, did not respond to questions sent via email and WhatsApp on Friday. The WhatsApp questions were read but not responded to.

ESEID was launched in 2014 by former president Jacob Zuma to improve co-ordination within the government and enhance the delivery of services. It’s unclear who is its current chairperso­n but at the time the committee was chaired by former Minister of Rural Developmen­t and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti. The deputy chair was Minister of Internatio­nal Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor.

The cluster promotes an integrated and co-ordinated approach to planning, implementa­tion and monitoring of government priorities. It also co-ordinates government communicat­ion, promoting a transparen­t accountabl­e government and an informed citizenry.

It’s not the first time that ministers have been chased out of Cabinet meetings by the president. During the administra­tion of former president Thabo Mbeki, several ministers were kicked out or barred from attending Cabinet meetings for failing to read memos in advance or for poor and/or a lack of preparatio­n.

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Fikile Mbalula

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