The South African Communist Party (SACP) and labour federation Cosatu have warned that another Cabinet reshuffle so soon after the last one in March would paralyse an already divided tripartite alliance.
The speculation about another reshuffle comes after the ANC confirmed that former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would be sworn in as an MP. This followed the departure of ANC national executive committee member Pule Mabe from the National Assembly.
A former minister of health, home affairs and foreign affairs, Dlamini-Zuma is tipped to replace SACP boss Blade Nzimande as higher education minister. Nzimande, formerly one of President Jacob Zuma’s close allies, has lately become one of his most vocal critics.
Zuma is also expected to use the opportunity to fill the position left by former deputy higher education minister Mduduzi Manana, who resigned after assaulting a Johannesburg woman in August.
The SACP and Cosatu asked the president to step down after a late-night Cabinet reshuffle in March, in which former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, were booted out.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the federation would not speculate about Nzimande being replaced, but warned that any such move was likely to further cripple an alliance that is already in a “critical condition” because of Zuma.
“There is a lot of speculation, so we are finding it extremely difficult to engage with the issue but I will say that the alliance is already in a coma because of the ANC’s inability to hold the president accountable,” he said.
“Instead of protecting South Africa against looting, they [the ANC] have openly bent over backwards to protect the president, and that is why the alliance is in the critical position that it is in today.
“Zuma has single-handedly liquidated the alliance and, if he decides to fire the higher education minister, he will be mirroring the other self-centred decisions he has made in the past that have dismantled this alliance,” said Pamla.
Acting SACP spokesperson Mhlekwa Nxumalo warned that the alliance would suffer if a Cabinet reshuffle is done for the wrong reasons.
“We have heard reports from the media of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle following the ANC’s announcement that Dlamini-Zuma will be sworn in as MP, and we have also heard rumours of comrade Blade’s axing,” he said.
“Whether comrade Blade is removed or not is not important. How we will act will be determined by the reasons given for the reshuffle. While we welcome the deployment of Dlamini-Zuma as an MP, we will not welcome a reshuffling that will allow more corruption and looting to happen, because the latter would finish off the alliance.”
The president of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKVA), Kebby Maphatsoe, who has thrown his weight behind Dlamini-Zuma, said the organisation welcomed her appointment.
“On the issue of the reshuffle, we, as the MKVA, distance ourselves from rumours because they are meant to destabilise the ANC. But we accept and appreciate the deployment of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma because she has a lot of experience and understands both Parliament and government. With the December conference [of the ANC] coming, this will give her time to interact with members of Parliament, particularly those of the ANC.”
University of the Witwatersrand political analyst Susan Booysen said: “Yes, the alliance is in a dismal state but I highly doubt Nzimande’s removal would have any significant and immediate effects. However, I do believe that the decision will go a long way in determining what happens to the alliance after the December conference.
“If Dlamini-Zuma emerges victorious, then that might spell the end of the alliance as we know it, whereas a CR [Cyril Ramaphosa] win might well strengthen the alliance since both the SACP and Cosatu have called for the president to step down.”
Zuma’s spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, said the president’s office would not comment on speculation.