2009 Report Card: Part 2

How we scored them
Each year in October we finalise the assignment of Cabinet report cards to the reporters who have spent the most time covering each portfolio.

They trawl through their notes, interview government officials, sector stakeholders, civil society organisations, and opposition politicians and try to build a composite picture of each minister’s performance.

This year they also asked each department to list five key priorities, and outline its performance on each. We drew up our own list too, for comparison.

Finally we tried to assign each minister a set of new ratings (which we’ve dubbed the BMW rating). One measure estimates their Cabinet muscle — how much influence they have in the bruising deliberations that shape policy. Another rates their ‘weathervane” qualities — how much they have shifted their department’s approach since the advent of the Zuma administration, and a third rates their propensity for bling: flash cars, official residences and expensive budget vote parties.

Naledi Pandor: Minister of Science and Technology

Bling: 3/5: Two Merc S250s totalling R1,4-million with a bristling raft of extras including heated front seats, dented her modest, though not Spartan, image
Cabinet muscle: 1/5: Retained (though demoted) despite clear, if quiet, pro-Mbeki allegiances, she commands respect but lacks a knockout punch
Weathervane qualities: 1/5: Wisely keeping to departmental tracks laid by her excellent predecessor

Opinion in the science and technology field is divided on whether the former education minister really has her heart in her new portfolio, or whether she remains disappointed at being downgraded by the Zuma administration.

As a non-scientist — her well-regarded predecessor, Mosibudi Mangena, was at least a mathematician — she is clearly still feeling her way, and she has been something of a figurehead over the past eight months, opening conferences and reading prepared speeches. Science and technology prides itself on being a cross-cutting ministry whose job it is to support research and development in other jurisdictions, including education and health. However, cooperation — particularly with higher education — is inadequate, and too little of the money the department channels to the National Research Foundation is reaching university researchers.

There is also paralysis at the lower levels of the S&T bureaucracy, largely because officials lack a scientific background. An exception is the department’s Director General, Phil Mjwara: there was considerable relief in the scientific fraternity when he stayed on under Pandor.

Pandor’s advantage is that unlike Mangena, an Azapo leader, she is an ANC stalwart who attends meetings of the party’s parliamentary caucus and national executive committee. She should use her influence in the ruling party to spur research and technological innovation in South Africa. The ministry is seen as having a potentially vital role to play in such areas as alternative energy generation, in collaboration with Eskom, and the country’s response to climate change.

Ebrahim Patel: Minister of Economic Development
Grade: An obscure X
Bling: 0/5: No government credit card, no staff parties, no new cars
Cabinet muscle:2.5/5: His pals have managed to keep Trevor Manuel out of the economic cluster, which suggests some brawn
Weathervane qualities: No score — new department

Despite presidential assurances that Patel is responsible for economic development, this is a vaguely mandated ministry that overlaps with others such as treasury. And Patel himself seems to be Zuma’s sop to the alliance partners who supported him in his battle with Thabo Mbeki.

Patel wants his department to be chiefly engaged in policy development and planning, involving coordination between departments and other state agencies. But this echoes the national planning commission in the presidency, so jurisdictional discomfort and lack of clarity are inevitable.

Even so, Patel has made some headway in creating a place for his department. It responded to the economic crisis with programmes to prevent job losses during the recession — albeit with lukewarm success. And his department has begun focusing on the current account deficit, the exchange rate and its impact on the real economy, and income inequality.

But how far Patel succeeds in cutting across the silo culture of government departments, and how far it takes robust debate before ensuring policy implementation, will show whether Patel has a real job.

Dipuo Peters: Minister of Energy
Grade: C-
Bling: 1/5: Uses her predecessor’s cars and modest government housing
Cabinet muscle: 2/5: A political rookie
Weathervane qualities: 4/5: Her ability to break with the past demonstrated when she managed to get separate fuel cards scrapped

Dipuo who? As we lurch into a resource-challenged world, you might have expected that the newly created ministry of energy, which resulted from cutting minerals and energy into two, would have had a political heavyweight assigned to run it.
But Dipuo Peters, formerly the premier of the Northern Cape still has to develop both the sharp and tough elbows her more experienced Cabinet colleagues have. She has kept a low- to no-profile presence, and the DA says she hasn’t put a foot wrong. It quickly adds, though, that ‘she has also not put a foot right”.

The energy ministry says that Peters key priorities areas have been to get a fully fledged department up and running and drafting an integrated resource plan to guide policy until 2020, when the next nuclear plant is expected to come on stream, and beyond.

One key plan is an effective solar heater programme that could save the country as much as 750 megawatts of power, obviating the need for new coal-fired capacity with a price tag of up to R40-billion.

But the Eskom-led programme, which has stalled, has been both costly and bureaucratic, resulting in a pitifully low number of units being installed.

Peters is promoting giant concentrated solar power projects that could be set up in the country’s arid regions; and she speaks of universal access to electricity for schools and clinics.

The functional ability of her department is in question, as is the adequacy with which she has stressed the need for private sector involvement in facing the country’s energy challenges.

Jeff Radebe: Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
Grade: E
Bling: 1/5: No visible signs
Cabinet muscle: 4/5: A long-time member of both the ANC NEC and the NWC, and a Cabinet minister since 1994, Radebe is among the heaviest of the heavy-hitters
Weathervane qualities: 4/5: No doubt here who’s running the show (unlike previously, when many assumed then deputy Johnny de Lange was the main man)

You would think that after a review of the criminal justice system exposed crippling deficiencies both in policing and in holding those accused of crime to account, the justice minister’s priorities would be clear cut.

But Radebe is looking more like the kingpin among those security cluster officials whose main task is to ensure that Zuma never sees the inside of a courtroom again. Increasingly becoming the Essop Pahad of the new administration, Radebe’s lofty talk of advancing transformation in the judiciary and the legal profession purveys a dangerous and cynical populism that only thinly disguises his efforts to entrench a culture of compliance.

The legal technicalities he recently deployed to defend yet another questionable Zuma appointment — Menzi Simelane as head of the National Prosecuting Authority — resembled nothing so much as Zuma’s own manoeuvres to get himself off the hook.

In similar vein, Radebe had shortly before this cleared the way to appointing key Judicial Service Commission members who returned the favour by clearing Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe of any wrongdoing concerning alleged attempts to influence Constitutional Court judges.
Unsurprisingly then, Radebe’s performance on his ostensible mandate is thin. He promised that this year would see the Legal Practice Bill — a tool for transformation — but it has not yet been tabled.

So despite his complaints about the dearth of women in leadership positions, none has yet been appointed as a judge president. And black lawyers still complain about briefing patterns from private and public institutions.

On the other hand, special backlog courts have eased the logjam of cases waiting to be heard, and introducing digital recorders and an electronic case management system at some courts is welcome.

Radebe earns an unqualified plus for placing administration of the courts in the hands of the judiciary under the leadership of Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, especially because the minister’s earlier pronouncements on the matter had sounded distinctly threatening to the independence of the judiciary.

Now how about doing your paid job and attending to the recommendations of the criminal justice review?

Tokyo Sexwale: Minister of Human Settlements
Grade: B –
One of the country’s richest men, suave Sexwale has impressed by drawing a line between his business and political interests. He resigned as executive chairman of the Mvelaphanda Group and tapped into the mood of opposition to government excess by introducing austerity drives in his department. And just as this multimillionaire did when he hosted the reality television series, The Apprentice, he has begun to tell those who mess up on housing delivery: ‘You’re fired.”

Sexwale’s priority is the provision of adequate housing, yet the costs of shoddy workmanship on defective government housing will lose his department a reported billion rand as they pull down and rebuild, particularly in the Eastern Cape. Most of his budget is paid to provincial governments to deliver housing, and he has shown he intends to have strong oversight on these projects to ensure they do not collapse. But he will have to ensure there is greater transparency on the government spend and operations of the newly launched Housing Development Agency, which was set up to counteract the housing backlog.

Sexwale is unafraid to tackle his ANC heavyweight comrades in the Cabinet. His spat with his predecessor, now Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, revealed the department of housing had spent more than R22-million on a series of plays during her tenure. He vowed not to allow this sort of expenditure, but Sisulu accused Sexwale of not launching a single project since he took over the portfolio.

The problem was Sexwale could not launch new housing projects immediately because he has inherited so many flawed ones. He is now tasked with turning around the ailing N2 Gateway project in Cape Town, which was launched by Sisulu. This is the government’s pilot housing programme but it has been declared a disaster by many residents.

Born in an informal settlement, Sexwale tried to show he has not lost touch with the poor when he spent a night in a shack in Diepsloot township outside Johannesburg. This PR move failed to convince angry community members, however, who here and elsewhere this year expressed terminal impatience with government spin and soothing promises of a better life.

So Sexwale still has to convince millions of South African they will get houses and that they do not need to burn tyres while they wait. Everyone is watching to see whether Sexwale really means business.

Sicelo Shiceka: Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

Waves of service delivery protests, qualified municipal audits and corrupt local officials fuel the urgency of Shiceka’s mission.

His talk about how local government will change is sometimes bombastic, but he is a visible leader who put out the fires in communities embroiled in fights over demarcation such as Moutse, Matatiele and Khutsong.

An auspicious year-end note was the Cabinet’s adoption of Shiceka’s turn-around strategy, which aims to put professionals rather than politically connected individuals in charge of municipalities.

Municipal managers must belong to a professional association that observes a code of conduct; and municipal finance managers should be qualified chartered accountants who would be struck from the roll if found to be corrupt.

Suspended municipal officials will be banned from working in other spheres of government; and it will be mandatory for councillors to provide feedback to communities on issues they have raised with municipal councils.

Traditional chiefs exist uncomfortably with local authorities and feel they have been strung along by Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela and still have undefined powers. Shiceka needs to clarify their status and his setting up a dedicated traditional affairs unit suggests he takes this seriously.

Lindiwe Sisulu: Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

An embarrassing protest march by defence force
members that featured violent clashes with police shattered Lindiwe Sisulu’s honeymoon in her new

No newcomer to the security cluster, she dismissed some of the marchers and called for the de-unionising of the military. Strongly condemned by Cosatu and the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans, she stuck to her guns despite the political risks.

Among the protesting soldiers’ gripes was remuneration, and Sisulu has been quick to respond, announcing in December increases between 2% and 65%, with the lowest paid soldiers benefiting the most.

She also wants military salaries to be structured independently from those of other public servants — but she needs to consider the constitutional implications of banning unions.

Sisulu seeks to refine the role of a soldier during peace times, such as assisting municipalities in project management and implementation.

Soldiers have become more useful since she took over, building bridges in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng and filling in for striking doctors in June.

The defence force will be deployed back to the country’s porous borders from early next year. And Sisulu has overseen a new HIV/Aids policy that for the first time provides guidelines on managing soldiers living with HIV.

Having weathered her torrid first months with aplomb, and as one of the heavyweights in Zuma’s Cabinet, she should now have the time and the muscle to cast a sharp eye on the performance of both Denel and Armscor.

Buyelwa Sonjica: Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs

Carrying heavy baggage from her former mining and energy portfolio, Sonjica was on the back foot from the start. But she is willing and able — and wisely listens to her excellent advisers.

She has been thrown into the deep end with the Copenhagen negotiations and sometimes appears lost in these complexities; she will have to toughen up to face the negotiating sharks next year.

Her biggest headache remains water, which is set to become the country’s new Eskom-type catastrophe because of inadequate investment in water infrastructure and the pollution of rivers. She claims to have a plan — but we haven’t seen it yet.
On air quality she deserves an A for effort in tackling loopholes that polluting companies routinely exploited, but must still monitor compliance more rigorously. She is also pushing for dedicated green courts and greater green consciousness from the National Prosecuting Authority.

With the country’s rich biodiversity under threat due to habitat loss, desertification and climate change, Sonjica will have to make tough decisions about limiting development — and while she is no political lightweight, her muscle will be tested in trying to change Cabinet hearts and minds on this score.

Makhenkesi Stofile: Minister of Sport and Recreation

South African sport is in the intensive care unit, giving credence to suspicions that Stofile retained his portfolio only because Fifa insisted on continuity ahead of the World Cup.

So, next year kicks off with the indignity of Bafana Bafana absence from January’s Africa Cup; and things will hardly improve when they start as the lowest-ranked side in the global 2010 showpiece comes to Africa for the first time.

A bloated Olympic team returned home with just one medal, and although the ministry claims that 1,1-million people participated in the department’s mass participation progamme, there is still no clear scouting policy for talent. And what new talent has emerged is despite rather than because of Stofile’s administration: new 100m champion Simon Magakwe, for instance, rocked up at the national championships with his kit in a Checkers carrier bag.

The Caster Semenya debacle starkly demonstrated Stofile’s shortcomings. His unhelpful bluster involved threatening a ‘World War III” if she was stripped of her medal.

Rugby and cricket certainly get Stofile going, though to no discernibly constructive end. He spent more than R100 000 on media ads questioning Tendai Mtawarira’s eligibility to play for the Springboks, but failed to explain why doing so was in the interests of the sport. Getting undistributed half of R600-million in Lotto money to sports associations would be a better use of his energy.

But at least government guarantees to Fifa have been honoured and the country delivered a spectacular draw in Cape Town.

Marthinus Van Schalkwyk: Minister of Tourism

Van Schalkwyk has never been afraid to roll up his sleeves and get the job done. He has been busily checking that there are enough rooms for the 2010 World Cup visitors and making sure they will not stay in dumps masquerading as luxury establishments.

Tourists have risen by 30% (to 9,6-million annually) since he took over the portfolio in 2004 m in 2004 figures have been rising from 6,7-million arrivals to to 9,6-million. He consults with small guesthouse owners and big hotel groups alike — and even the opposition loves him.

He has urged black South Africans to become tourists in their own country and seen that visitors from elsewhere in Africa who come here on business represent a tourist market that needs tapping too.

Seemingly the only South Africa looking beyond 2010, he is eyeing World Cup infrastructure for mega-events and other uses after the football players depart.

Lulu Xingwana: Minister of Arts and Culture

In the sophisticated ambience conjured by the pipe-smoking, poetry-quoting Thabo Mbeki, the department of arts and culture operated at a remove from the community it was supposed to serve — and the studious Pallo Jordan didn’t do much to lighten the air.

But Lulu Xingwana has a direct public persona and is seen at functions and opening nights.

She reflects the era of her president — keen to engage with her constituency and forever speaking the populist language of the moment: we must give ‘arts to all” and build a culture ‘rooted in the realities of our people”, she told Parliament.

And she brought the presidency and the arts community together in November, when Zuma had a morning-long consultation with the sector that began with the artists of Johannesburg singing a resounding Umshini wam.

Building on her predecessor’s work, her ministry has opened plenty of new libraries, including one with Braille facilities in Mdantsane, East London.
But she will need to tackle

Robben Island, where European rabbits and feral cats threaten the heritage site’s biodiversity. A forensic report on mismanagement of the island museum is yet to be made public.

Xingwana also needs to engage with her parliamentary colleagues if she wants to master her portfolio: the DA complains that she hasn’t answered 80% of questions put to her and she is regularly absent from parliamentary committee meetings. But the early signs are encouraging.

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