Splitting ministries

A major overhaul of government is on the cards as President Jacob Zuma moves to expand Cabinet ministries and introduce a planning commission to speed up service delivery.

ANC strategist and the head of the party’s transitional management team, Collins Chabane, told the Mail & Guardian last week that Zuma’s administration will expand national ministries from 28 to 32.

Chabane said that after his inauguration Zuma will introduce a new ministry of rural development. His administration also plans to split four ministries and merge certain departments.

The education ministry, according to Chabane, will be split in two, with one overseeing higher education and vocational training and the other devoted to primary and secondary schooling.

With the creation of a higher education and vocational ministry, sector education and training authorities [Setas] will move from the labour department to education.

The move is partly designed to bring to an end long-standing turf battles between the departments of labour and education and foster a cooperative approach to skills development.

“We need to have one coordinated training ministry in the country that will focus on the provision of skills,” said Chabane.

The ANC’s transitional team has also proposed that the Department of Minerals and energy be split into two departments, one focusing on mining and the other on energy.

The departments of water affairs and forestry and environmental affairs and tourism will be partitioned, with forestry being moved to agriculture and water to environment affairs. Tourism will become a stand-alone portfolio.

Chabane said the decision to combine water and environmental affairs was a response to the challenges of global warming.

“Global warming will have a significant impact on our water resources. The challenge in the next 15 years will be the management of water,” he said.

Although trade and industry will not be split, Chabane said some of its components, including enterprise development, consumer development and business regulation, will be moved to the tourism ministry.

Countering speculation that the Zuma administration is planning to establish a ministry for military veterans, Chabane said the transitional team has proposed that veterans be incorporated as a section of the department of defence.

“Our view is that we can’t have military veterans as a separate ministry. We need to expand the responsibility of the defence department to cater for ANC military veterans in line with the party’s conference resolution in 2007,” he said.

The transitional task team has proposed that state-owned enterprises such as Denel, South African Airways and Transnet be moved from the public enterprises ministry to their line portfolios of defence and transport.

ANC national executive committee member and SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said the planning commission will bring much improved coordination within the state.

Cronin denied that the commission intended to reduce the powers of the treasury and centralise power within the presidency.

“This commission is not about personal power, but the alignment of strategic functions. Previously, there has been a lot of contradiction [regarding the roles of various government departments]. It does not make sense to have financial management without a strategic instrument.

“The idea is to have a long-term vision on key projects such as energy. There are a lot of danger signals from the previous administration. The fiasco around the electricity crisis last year is a good example of poor planning,” said Cronin.

He said one of the planning commission’s key roles will be to monitor the performance of ministers and create employment opportunities.

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