Zuma’s Cabinet: Who’s in, who’s out

With the ANC’s electoral list-making process nearing finality, Jacob Zuma and his top officials must walk a fine line between handing the spoils to the victors of Polokwane, keeping the losers on their side and ensuring that South Africa is competently run.

Cosatu and the SACP are pushing hard for control of key ministries and parliamentary committees in return for their assistance in winning Zuma the top ANC job.

Intense speculation is focused on caretaker President Kgalema Motlanthe, seen by Zuma loyalists as a dangerous rival and the target of persistent negative publicity in recent months, and on Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

But jostling for other Cabinet jobs is well under way.

Key ANC figures from across the party’s fractures, including Manuel, Deputy President Baleka Mbete and communist party boss Blade Nzimande still have everything to play for.

Leftist leaders who were crucial to Zuma’s Polokwane victory are doing their best to appear coy about accepting office, but Nzimande and Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi are clearly leading candidates.

‘Blade really doesn’t want to be in Cabinet but was defeated by the central committee and now has to go,” a central committee member claimed to the Mail & Guardian.

Cosatu leaders are expected to decide by next week whether Vavi should join Cabinet, say federation sources.

A new body called the ‘alliance political committee” has been set up to advise the president on Cabinet appointments and may spare the two men blushes by insisting they get jobs.

ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus said political seniority alone will not be enough to guarantee a job.

‘It’s a combination of seniority, competence, skill … We want this Cabinet to be as well placed as possible to deliver.”

Health Minister Barbara Hogan, Niehaus suggested, is an example of this approach. ‘She’s shown herself very effective in a short time,” he said.

Hogan is expected to continue in the portfolio, as both the ANC and its alliance partners approve of her mopping-up exercise in the wake of the disastrous Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Although she is outside the party’s national executive committee, Hogan has a long parliamentary record and is close to Motlanthe.

Jay Naidoo, the ANC’s health adviser, was also touted for the job, but has been ruled out because he has not been politically active.

Former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge is likely to continue in Parliament, where she is National Assembly deputy speaker.

Parliamentary insiders say she is enormously confident in the role, effectively issuing instructions at times to Speaker Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.

Because treasury controls the resources for policy implementation, this is the most eagerly watched portfolio.

There is intense anxiety throughout the ANC about whether Manuel will stay. Most leftists want him out, because he has made it clear he will not implement the freer-spending policies and changes to the

Reserve Bank’s mandate the party has promised.

Business-friendly leaders want him to stabilise what they fear could be a dangerously populist Cabinet.

Manuel is playing his cards typically close. The appointment of his wife, Maria Ramos, to run Absa suggests he cannot continue in the post because it would create insuperable conflicts of interest, but he insists no conflict would arise.

That may be because he plans to step down, as many business leaders believe. But some in the ANC fear he thinks his own reputation would shield him against accusations of bias.

Manuel has told ANC colleagues ‘they want me out”, but no firm decision has been taken. He may want to stay on for a while to ensure stability and seek a successor while ‘saving” the country from the policies advocated by the SACP. ‘It’s up to Zuma, and the worry is that he may cave in to international investors and keep him,” said one leftist.

There are few possible replacements. Deputy Trade Minister Rob Davies, who clashes regularly with Manuel over industrial policy, is one, but there is a strong desire, too, to appoint the country’s first black finance minister.

Foreign Affairs
The SACP and Cosatu have drawn up lists of candidates for Cabinet, which tout SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande as foreign minister.

‘That position is strategic and the president will need someone he can trust. So pick the people closest to you,” said an SACP source.

Nzimande will face competition from businessman Tokyo Sexwale, also said to be eyeing the job, and the incumbent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who wants to retain the position and might have earned credit by declining the deputy presidency after Mbeki fired her ex-husband.

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, set for a more senior job, is seen as having done well in her current position. Intelligence is being mentioned because she held the portfolio until 2004 and Zuma will want someone he trusts to regain complete control of secret agencies hit by damaging battles between his and Mbeki’s supporters. But the incumbent, Siyabonga Cwele, is well placed to keep the job, and Sisulu could be given another security portfolio.

Insiders say Pallo Jordan is ‘ready for a more senior position” and may be considered for communications or as minister in the presidency. He currently heads the ANC’s internal communications unit. Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi is held responsible for the disastrous Telkom privatisation and slow progress in opening internet and telephony markets. She is definitely out.

Education Minister Naledi Pandor’s future is uncertain — she has indicated she is unavailable to continue, but is said to be reconsidering. Analysts speculate that Nzimande, well-regarded as chair of Parliament’s education committee in the 1990s, will get the job, but he apparently wants something sexier. ‘He’s looking for a new challenge,” a source said.

Pandor’s former deputy and current Justice Minister Enver Surty is also an option.

Other jobs and candidates
With list processes in most provinces over, provincial preferences can be gauged. They suggest that Motlanthe is in pole position as the next deputy president, but that the incumbent, Baleka Mbete, will give him a run for his money.

Women in both the ANC Women’s League and in the national executive committee are expected to lobby for Mbete at the national list conference.

‘We must make hard decisions about 50-50 [gender parity] and this needs to be one of them. But we don’t want to just pick a skirt and put her there,” said an NEC member.

Former youth leader Fikile Mbalula makes a strong showing on the provincial lists and is up for a Cabinet position. But the league wants to position him as the top candidate for secretary general at the ANC’s 2012 conference.

Another Zuma lieutenant, Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthetwa, is said to be bound for the troubled home affairs portfolio.

The SACP has proposed as Cabinet members Rob Davies, parliamentary transport committee chair Jeremy Cronin, justice committee chair Yunus Carrim and Transport Minister Jeff Radebe, apparently back in favour after the party ousted him for backing privatisation.

Cosatu’s list of candidates for legislative and executive positions includes the general secretary of teachers’ union Sadtu, Thulas Nxesi; transport union (Satawu) general secretary Randall Howard; municipal workers’ union (Samwu) president Petrus Mashishi; police union (Popcru) general secretary Abbey Witbooi; clothing and textile union (Sactwu) general secretary Ebrahim Patel; health union (Nehawu) president and general secretary Noluthando Sibiya and Fikile Majola; former Numsa president Mtutuzeli Tom; and former Cosatu leader Chris Dlamini.

All have been included on ANC lists, but only Patel (for trade and industry), Nxesi (for education), Howard and Sibiya are considered serious Cabinet candidates.

ANC parliamentary chief whip Nyami Booi is also well placed on some provincial lists, despite facing Travelgate charges.

Niehaus said the party would not let criminal charges stand in the way of members taking high office. ‘Unproved allegations cannot prevent you from being eligible for a position,” he said.

Reshaping Cabinet
A wild card is the possible restructuring of Cabinet in terms of SACP proposals, which could see a handful of ‘super-ministers” act as the executive’s ‘national working committee”, responsible for overall planning and management. These would be aligned with the ANC’s five priorities — rural development, crime, jobs, health and education.

A second layer of ministers would be slotted into these categories. The left envisages that some ministries, including public enterprises, will be scrapped and others, including agriculture and land affairs and minerals and energy, split.

Education might also be restructured in this way, with subordinate ministers respectively overseeing secondary and tertiary education.

‘The idea is to break treasury’s hold, so that more than one minister will decide on the allocation of funds,” said a senior SACP central committee member. ‘We want a structure where senior ministers will sit together and decide as a collective, keeping in mind government’s strategic overall planning.”

A senior government official said it would be easy to change the current cluster system to a two-tiered one.

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Mandy Rossouw
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Matuma Letsoala
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Mmanaledi Mataboge
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