Putting paid to political debt

Is this President Jacob Zuma’s dream team? Among the five advisers he appointed this week are an ANC loyalist who has never served in Parliament and two failed former Cabinet ministers.

As with some Cabinet members, Zuma’s choices of advisers derive at least partly from a need to settle political debts. Charles Nqakula and Mandisi Mpahlwa, for instance, did not make it back to Cabinet because they were considered to be non-performers.

But Zuma needed to reward them for not quitting last year when former president Thabo Mbeki was fired, even though they were considered to be Mbeki supporters.

Advisers act as the president’s emissaries in sounding out key players in civil society and business circles. They are not part of Cabinet, but can demand information from Cabinet ministers, and they prepare reports for the president.

Ayanda Dlodlo (parliamentary counsellor)
Dlodlo served as secretary general of the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) Military Veterans’ Association until her appointment to Parliament after the recent election. The association was rejuvenated in the run-up to the ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane to help Zuma capture the presidency of the party.
Dlodlo and the MK veterans remained crucial to Zuma after Polokwane. She led meetings with the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mokotedi Mpshe, to convince him to drop the corruption charges against Zuma.
Rumours touted her as police chief to replace Jackie Selebi, and she was also punted as a candidate for National Director of Prosecutions, but her dubious history in the NPA put paid to that. She allegedly misappropriated funds from the Scorpions account used to pay informers and was charged with fraud. The charges were later dropped and Dlodlo quit the NPA. She serves on the party’s powerful deployment committee that allocates government positions to cadres.

Bonisiwe Makhene (legal adviser)
An advocate, Makhene played a central role in drafting the controversial package of judicial reforms introduced in 2005 and canned by Mbeki after an outcry from judges.
Her appointment signals the greatly enhanced authority of the ANC over the executive and the party’s desire to drive the resolutions taken at its Polokwane conference on the transformation of the judiciary and the legal profession.
Makhene is very different from Mbeki’s powerful legal adviser, Mojanku Gumbi. In contrast with Gumbi, who had an Azapo background, Makhene’s political links are with the ruling party.
Gumbi is known to have acted as a channel between the presidency and the judiciary on the 2005 judicial reforms, rejected by judges as an affront to their independence, and to have influenced Mbeki to shelve them. By contrast, as head of policy in the justice department Makhene spearheaded the drafting of the widely criticised legislation.
Seconded from the office of the chief state law adviser, Makhene first joined the justice department as a special adviser to then justice minister Dullah Omar.
Her past bosses, including former justice minister Penuell Maduna and chief state law adviser Enver Daniels, have commented approvingly on her sharp intellect and open-mindedness.

Lindiwe Zulu (international relations adviser)
A pragmatist who is also known for her independence of mind, Zulu had a four-year stint as ambassador in Brazil, where she helped cement the relationship between South Africa and the South American country.
She was elected to the ANC’s national executive committee at the Polokwane conference and, at end of 2008, she joined the communication department in Luthuli House. She soon became a rising star, thanks to the bad relationship that official spokesperson Jessie Duarte has with most media professionals.
She serves on the national executive committee of the ANC Women’s League and was elected to Parliament at the 2009 elections. She served previously as the deputy speaker in the Gauteng legislature and later joined the department of foreign affairs.

Charles Nqakula (political adviser)
Former president Thabo Mbeki appointed Nqakula as safety and security minister in 2004, a difficult portfolio in which he was not very successful. He failed to meet government targets for crime reduction and his move to defence after the Cabinet reshuffle in 2008 was met with sighs of relief.
An avid Mbeki supporter, Nqakula switched his support to Zuma, and his chairmanship of the SACP gives him leftist credentials that Zuma hopes will help to balance the views of government moderates.
Nqakula was involved in the Burundi peace talks and is considered a good negotiator and strategist.

Mandisi Mpahlwa (economic adviser)
The former trade and industry minister has a good relationship with the trade unions and Cosatu says he “tried his best” when dealing with tariffs and imports, which they were hoping would help stem job losses and help businesses, especially in the textile industry.
He has also been deputy finance minister and is expected to advise the president on issues such as South Africa’s role in world trade negotiations.
Mpahlwa’s detractors see him as “nondescript” and say he did not perform in the Cabinet. The bungling of the Lotto — it failed to re-register in time — is a black mark against his name. So, too, is the complaint that the trade and industry department during his reign did little to cut the red tape and the costs of doing business in South Africa.

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