Ministers get 18 months to cut the mustard

President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet team announced last weekend may not be the same one that ends its term in 2014.

According to party and government insiders, the demands of Cabinet, coupled with the new monitoring mechanism in government, could see some ministers leave the position after being brought in to balance out all constituencies.

Stringent monitoring measures could see those who do not cut the mustard in the next 18 months removed.

”The character of civil servants that South Africans have come to know is a civil servant who is ‘very lazy’ and ‘very slow’,” said Zuma’s spokesperson Zizi Kodwa. ”President Zuma introduced what he calls ‘faster change’ and therefore appointed people he believed are hard workers and service orientated.”

Another African National Congress (ANC) insider said: ”I think in 18 months we may see a different structure. I think [planning minister] Trevor [Manuel] is there to keep markets happy, but he will not stay forever. We will see a reorganisation of the structure. People who are not up to the job will be monitored and told ‘sorry, you didn’t make the grade’.”

Experience in government was the overriding principle that guided Zuma in appointing his Cabinet.

”You’d like to retain people [who were in Cabinet previously], but also allow them some growth,” said Kodwa. ”A person must not be defined by one portfolio. If you have done well with a certain portfolio, you must be moved to another department so that you can empower government in another area.”

The move of former health minister Barbara Hogan to public enterprises was met with shock, but insiders said her financial competency was needed in her new portfolio.

”She was a former chairperson of Scopa [parliamentary watchdog standing committee of public accounts] and has a good understanding of government spending,” an ANC insider said.

Hogan’s successor as health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, has proven himself as a competent education minister from Limpopo with a good history of health activism.

”He will know to leave the private sector alone and get on with the job of building clinics. That was the problem with both [former health ministers] Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,” the ANC insider said. ‘They were forever messing with the private sector. Motsoaledi understands that we must focus on getting public health together.”

Several provincial leaders were elevated to high-level executive positions, showing the party’s lack of strong women leaders with the requisite government experience.

Minister of Social Development Edna Molewa and Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters were both provincial premiers who were not popular in their core constituency, but are seen as strong administrators who can run these crucial departments.

Competent former provincial ministers such as Tina Joemat Petterson (now Minister of Agriculture), Angie Motshekga (now Basic Education Minister) and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (now International Relations Minister) were, apart from their relative success in their departments, also supposed to fill the provincial and gender quotas that the ANC insists on.

Some younger members of the executive such as former Gauteng premier Paul Mashatile (Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture) and former Youth League president Fikile Mbalula have been given a platform to prove themselves in a different sphere.

In Mashatile’s case, his alleged corrupt activities in the province has moved Zuma to ”clip his wings and that of the Alex mafia”, according to insiders, which was becoming too visible and too powerful in the province.

Said Kodwa: ”He would have done well as the premier, but there are men and women who would do the same or even better than him.”

The appointment of Siphiwe Nyanda to Minister of Communications is seen as a surprise appointment, given his lack of experience in this highly technical portfolio. The obvious choice for Nyanda would have been defence minister, but he left the defence force in 2005 under a cloud and his extensive business interests in the defence industry counted against him. It is also not preferable to appoint a former soldier to the defence minister post, to ensure a necessary distance between soldiers and civilians.

Former housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu is said to be suited to the position of defence minister because of her background in intelligence. Also, the Defence Ministry is closely linked to the presidency and, according to government insiders, Zuma is said to want his closest ANC allies close to him in government.

Sisulu was angling for the foreign minister position, but was beaten to it by Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, which some suggest signals a downgrading of foreign affairs in the hierarchy of Cabinet. Nkoana-Mashabane served as ambassador in India and Malaysia, but on her return was deployed to Limpopo where she served in the provincial government. She is, however, relatively unknown in foreign affairs circles and has never worked at the head office in Pretoria.

Nkoana-Mashabane served on the ANC subcommittee for international relations and the chairperson of that committee, Ebrahim Ebrahim, was appointed by Zuma as her deputy minister of international relations.

The move of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma from foreign affairs to home affairs is seen by some as punishment for rejecting Zuma’s offer for the position of chairperson at the ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane in favour of former president Thabo Mbeki’s camp. It was also felt that she was a minister who liked the glamour of foreign affairs, but does not have enough to show for her 10 years in the job.

Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters, however, says she is seen as ”Ms Fix-it” who has the political clout and the work ethic needed to bring the embattled Department of Home Affairs back from the brink. She is also expected to have a better relationship with the departmental staff than her predecessor, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Her husband, former defence minister Charles Nqakula, and former trade and industry minister Mandisi Mpahlwa are expected to become ministerial advisers in their respective fields of competency.

Naledi Pandor was booted out of education to science and technology because the ANC was unhappy with the quality of education, including the matric results.

”It was felt she was stagnating in a department that needed energy,” an ANC insider said.

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Mandy Rossouw
Guest Author
Mmanaledi Mataboge
Guest Author

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