Female ministers ‘targeted’ in pending Cabinet rethink

Two more women ministers have been added to a list of those who will probably be subject to President Jacob Zuma’s imminent Cabinet rethink. The list is to be circulated before the national general council (NGC), the ANC’s largest gathering between conferences.

Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will apparently be ejected from Cabinet and Minerals Minister Susan Shabangu will be shifted to another portfolio.

Rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle have been circulating since April.

In a move that will anger Cosatu, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, tops the list of ministers to be axed.

Following her on the hit list are Edna Molewa (social development) and Makhenkesi Stofile (sports).

Members of the ANC Women’s League are in possession of the document, which they believe reflects Zuma’s thinking. But the Mail & Guardian could not verify its authenticity.

Zuma was set to give these ministers the chop shortly after the Fifa World Cup, sources told the M&G. But having failed to do so, he has been warned by close advisers that a reshuffle shortly before the NGC will cause instability and dissent.

Women’s League sources say there is a perception that Zuma is targeting women. “If he does this, there will be no more 50:50 in Cabinet,” said one source, referring to the ANC’s gender equity policy. “Why are there only women, and Stofile, on this list?”

The source said that Mayende-Sibiya was given no support, budget or proper guidance to get her department off the ground and is now being punished for it.

Mayende-Sibiya was left red-faced last year when her department planned no events for the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women and Children. Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana stepped in to help her develop a set of events to celebrate Women’s Month. The source said that Zuma’s argument that these ministers had not performed was disingenuous.

“It takes you about a year to figure out what you have to do [in your portfolio]. So if you are there for a year and you get fired, the next person will take another year. What happens to service delivery?”

Zuma is said to be taking advice on the reshuffle from a group of three senior ministers.

Molewa sent an emotional text message to her friends last week saying that she regretted “with all my heart that I entered the political life”.

“It’s too late, but if you don’t see me in the public space, take note that I am retracing the real me. I need to get back into that real person.”

ANC Women’s League president Angie Motshekga confirmed last week that the Women’s League was unhappy with Mayende-Sibiya, but said she was not aware of any other female ministers in the firing line.

She told the M&G ministers would not be protected simply because they were women. But if women ministers were replaced by men, it would raise eyebrows.

Presidential communications adviser Zizi Kodwa would not comment on the reshuffle. — Additional reporting by Mmanaledi Mataboge

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Mandy Rossouw
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Mmanaledi Mataboge
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