Fierce loyalty reaps big rewards

Ayanda Dlodlo
Minister of Communications
Ayanda Dlodlo joined the Cabinet as the deputy public service and administration minister in November 2010, when Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet and appointed a host of new deputy ministers.

Her route to Parliament was through the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association, where she was secretary general when the once-moribund organisation revitalised itself in time to play an important role in the ANC’s Polokwane elective conference, at which Zuma ousted Thabo Mbeki.

When Zuma was charged with corruption after that, Dlodlo led meetings with the National Prosecuting Authority to urge it to drop the charges. She was in an excellent position to do so as she had not only worked for the NPA — as director of its since-disbanded Scorpions unit — but she was arrested for corruption while in that job, although the charges were later dropped.

She went on to become a counsellor to the presidency in Parliament. She has regularly come to Zuma’s defence in public, rejecting suggestions that he was to blame for the ANC’s poor showing in the 2016 local elections and insisting that South Africans would forgive Zuma for Nkandla after the Constitutional Court found he had failed to fulfil his constitutional duties.

It has been expected that she would be promoted into the front ranks of the Cabinet, but her appointment as the minister of communications, or effectively of government propaganda, was unexpected.

Tokozile Xasa
Minister of Tourism
Tokozile Xasa had been the deputy tourism minister since Zuma’s first Cabinet in 2009. She has been a teacher, a mayor, an MEC in various portfolios and an MPL in the Eastern Cape for eight years.

She has maintained a relatively low profile and has not been involved in a major scandal. Xasa is the current spokesperson of the ANC Women’s League.

Hlengiwe Mkhize
Minister of Home Affairs
Hlengiwe Mkhize was sworn in as an MP in 2009 when Zuma took up his position at the helm of government.

She had been elected the previous year on to the national executive committee of the women’s league. A honorary professor of psychology at the University of South Africa, she holds three degrees: in social work, sociology and psychology.

In 2014, she was appointed deputy minister of the newly established telecommunications and postal services department. Her appointment was marred by controversy after she bought a Lexus ES250 for about R500 000 and a Jeep Grand Cherokee for slightly more than R600 000 after taking up office.

She is currently the treasurer general of the women’s league and a close ally of Zuma. In 2015, she was among the first leaders of the women’s league to proclaim South Africa was ready to be led by a woman.

Mmamoloko Kubayi
Minister of Energy
Although at times she has served as deputy chief whip for the ANC in Parliament and chaired the portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services, Mmamoloko Kubayi only attracted public attention after a picture was published apparently showing her painting her nails during a debate on Nkandla.

She subsequently said journalists had misled the public and that she had not been painting her nails. The picture captured what were widely believed to be her feelings about Nkandla. She was a prominent member of the committee that considered the public protector’s report on it, which later saw Zuma having to pay the state back in partfor improvements made to his compound.

She was also central to Zuma’s fierce resistance to making any such payments between 2014 and 2016.

“The public protector’s remedial actions are not enforceable and binding,” she said at one point, the exact opposite of what the Constitutional Court found. 

Zuma had “not requested anything” she said at another time. She also famously accused opposition parties of “hypocrisy and obsession” with Zuma on Nkandla, to standing applause from her ANC colleagues.

Joe Maswanganyi
Minister of Transport

A political scientist by training, Joe Maswanganyi may hold the record as the politician who has been most often tipped to be elevated to high office only to be passed over time and again. 

In one case, he was seen as a strong contender for the Limpopo premiership, and the ANC Youth League and the provincial structures of the ANC itself have long punted him for a position in the Cabinet.

Although he has not been as strong a defender of Zuma as some of his new colleagues in the Cabinet, Maswanganyi has long held that “party leadership” should be protected against insult.

Zuma shows the ANC who’s boss
President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle doesn’t reflect an attempt to improve clean governance, according to political analyst Susan Booysen, a professor at the University of Pretoria.

“For government it means there is even less recognition of expertise and performance, and that political expediency is really the criteria by which people are appointed and removed,” she said on Friday.

“Radical economic transformation has been hijacked to justify any political deployment he wants. It’s a dark and depressing day for the government,” she said.

For the ANC, Zuma’s decision to inform, and not consult, the party’s top officials could be a wake-up call.

“I think the ANC is now waking up to the fact it is not their ANC anymore, that Zuma has captured the party,” adding that power has been captured gradually.

“It was a big faction, then it became a small group, which includes business dynasties like the Guptas, and the next thing it was just Zuma ruling,” she added.

Dumisani Hlophe, a political analyst and governance specialist at the University of South Africa’s school of governance, said Zuma was driven in part by challenges to his authority, which was slowly bleeding away. The belief that he did not have the power to effect a Cabinet reshuffle virtually guaranteed that he had to do just that, Hlophe said.

He said Zuma had put pliable ministers in his Cabinet rather than those with big power bases, while keeping some potential enemies close to him.

“It is actually very good political manoeuvring,” he said. “Keep those who you know don’t like you very close, where you can monitor their movements, and keep them confused about why you haven’t removed them.”

Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.


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