South African Communist Party (SACP) General Secretary Blade Nzimande has been booted out of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet after months of speculation that the communist party’s critical stance on the president would cost him.
In a shock announcement on Tuesday morning, the office of the president confirmed another cabinet reshuffle less than seven months after Zuma made changes to his executive.
This is the 12th Cabinet reshuffle Zuma has effected since he assumed office in 2009.
While there was speculation that Nzimande would be replaced by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was recently sworn into Parliament, it was former Home Affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize was chosen be responsible for Higher Education.
In a scathing statement, the SACP condemned what it said was a “factional reshuffle” and said it believed Nzimande was being targeted.
“If the president thinks that by removing Dr Nzimande from Cabinet he will silence the SACP from the leading role it has played to expose and confront state capture, he is glaringly mistaken!” the statement read.
Zuma’s sacking of Blade Nzimande from cabinet has put the ANC’s alliance with Communist Party “on the brink of disintegration,” says SACP pic.twitter.com/Rt5W6i50DZ
— Geoffrey York (@geoffreyyork) October 17, 2017
The communist party has been critical of the ANC under Zuma’s leadership and has called for the president to step down.
At its National Congress in July, the SACP gave the clearest indication of its disdain for the president when it banned him from attending the gathering, with Nzimande saying he felt betrayed by Zuma.
Cosatu, which has also called for Zuma to step down said it was, informed this morning of Zuma’s intention to reshuffle his Cabinet but little reason was given for the decision.
Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the trade union federation was no longer surprised by Zuma’s antics.
“We have long said he is no longer the right person to take the country forward and he keeps proving to us that there’s little to expect from him. There’s very little left to be surprised about, the only surprises we keep getting are these ones,” Pamla said.
He said it was concerning that ministers such as Nomvula Mokonyane, Bathabile Dlamini and Mosebenzi Zwane, who had a track record of poor performance and were not affected by the reshuffle.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) also released a statement on the matter saying Nzimande’s axing was a sign of an “escalating ANC war”. It accused the president of getting rid of anyone who failed to “toe the Zuma line”.
The Energy department also faced its second leadership change in seven months with David Mahlobo now taking over from Mmamoloko Kubayi as Energy minister.
The reshuffle comes in the midst of developments surrounding government’s nuclear build programme including recent permission granted by the department of Environmental Affairs for the construction of a new nuclear plant.
In May, the Western Cape High court set aside all nuclear deals South Africa had entered into with countries such as Russia, South Korea and the United States, a decision Kubayi chose not challenge.
In September, the Sunday Times reported Mahlobo and two officials from the Central Energy fund allegedly travelled to Russia with businessmen Kenny Kunene and Gayton McKenzie, where the two negotiated a multi-billion rand gas deal.
Social commentators have said the decision to replace Kubayi with Mahlobo may be Zuma’s way of putting in place a pro-nuclear Cabinet.
Mahlobo’s position at State Security will be filled by little known MP Bongani Bongo.
Bongo is an ANC member from Mpumalanga who before today’s appointment served on Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services portfolio committee as well as the Defence and Military Veterans Committee.
Bongo was also part of the hearings to appoint a new public protector where, during an interview with Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, of the South African Litigation Centre (SALC), he raised concerns about the role of NGOs acting against the state. The SALC was instrumental in challenging government’s handling on the Omar al Bashir debacle.
Bongo is believed to support Mahlobo’s anti civil-society rhetoric and a belief that NGOs are agents of regime change.
In addition to the changes to his executive Zuma also announced the appointment of a new SABC board on Tuesday after a lengthly delay.
Just moments after the SABC board announcement Communications minister Ayanda Dlodlo, alongside whom Zuma was accused of delaying SABC appointments, found herself on the list of those who had been reshuffled.
Dlodlo will now serve as Home Affairs minister, taking over from Mkhize. Her position at the Communications ministry will be filled by Kubayi.
The full list of changes below:
- Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize is the Minister of Higher Education and Training
- Ms Ayanda Dlodlo is the Minister of Home Affairs
- Ms Mmamaloko Kubayi is the Minister of Communications
- Mr David Mahlobo is the Minister of Energy
- Advocate Bongani Thomas Bongo is the Minister of State Security
- Mr Buti Manamela is the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training