Free State Premier Beatrice Marshoff on Wednesday announced four changes to her provincial cabinet.
Minister of agriculture Mamiki Qabathe was moved to the sports, arts and culture department. Sports, arts and culture minister Ace Magashule, ANC chairperson in the Free State, was in turn moved to the public safety and security department, while public safety and security minister Mxolisi Dukwana was moved to the tourism, environment and economic affairs department.
Tourism, environment and economic affairs minister Neo Masithela will from now on be responsible for the agriculture department.
Marshoff said she was not forced to make these changes.
”It was done in full consultation with the party that deployed me to government,” she told journalists.
Marshoff said there was ”no mismanagement, no malfunction” within the provincial executive council that had forced her to make the changes.
She said that despite local African National Congress (ANC) plans to recall her since the provincial conference in Parys a few months ago, the provincial executive council ”had been working very well”.
Nevertheless, Marshoff said, there was a need to ”realign portfolios” within the executive council.
”I would not say this is a reshuffling, it’s a realignment of the portfolios, and obviously it would not have been done without the consent and the approval of the [provincial ministers] that are affected.”
Marshoff said the moves were not an indictment of the Free State government but rather a move to streamline the government’s interaction in the approach to the coming general elections.
Asked why the changes occurred so close to the general elections, Marshoff said the moves would probably not affect the departments involved.
”I do not think the realignment would have any impact of how the departments operate.”
Except for Masithela, all the other provincial ministers moved to new posts on Wednesday are members of the ANC’s provincial working committee in the Free State.
Political science professor at the North West University, Andre Duvenhage, said the Free State cabinet reshuffle was done to accommodate the new party leadership under Ace Magashule.
”This is nothing more than the strengthening of the hold of the Ace Magashule grouping, without executing a soft coup.”
He said the ANC had experienced huge resistance to the way it recalled people after Polokwane, as it generated political support against them.
Duvenhage said the party stopped the recall of two premiers because of this — Edna Molewa in the North West Province and Beatrice Marshoff in the Free State.
”They are still worried over the influence somebody like Marshoff could have on the election process. ”
Duvenhage said it would also not be ”unusual” for the ANC to deploy party officials to the premier’s office during this time and that she would stay on ”just for signing purposes”. — Sapa