President Cyril Ramaphosa has wrung some bold changes with his new cabinet while retaining some dead wood for the sake of unity in the ANC.
As opposed to last week’s state of the nation address (SONA) that was widely lauded, political parties have ridiculed Ramaphosa’s “new dawn”, laying into his first cabinet that retained compromised figures including new minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba, former minister of water affairs Nomvula Mokonyane and new minister in the presidency: women, Bathabile Dlamini.
In creating his first cabinet, Ramaphosa consulted the ANC’s alliance partners in the SACP and Cosatu, a marked departure from his predecessor under whom tripartite relations had been severely strained.
Interestingly, Ramaphosa’s rival in the race for the position of ANC president Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been appointed as minister in the presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. The office is tasked with monitoring of various cabinet portfolios.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said the ANC had served its own interests with the new cabinet instead of the interests of the country.
“The cabinet remains filled with compromised ministers, Gupta loyalists and corruption accused,” Maimane said in a statement.
“Tonight we saw the fatal compromise Cyril Ramaphosa made at Nasrec exposed for all to see, as David Mabuza will be sworn in as the deputy president of South Africa,” he continued.
Maimane said that Ramaphosa’s decision to retain Mabuza, Dlamini, Gigaba and Dlamini-Zuma showed that Zuma’s removal had not changed the ruling party.
The opposition leader said: “If Ramaphosa cut the cabinet to 15 ministries, we could have saved billions of rands and avoided a VAT [Value Added Tax] hike altogether.”
However, in making the reshuffle announcement Ramaphosa said that, as per his state of the nation address, a review had begun of “the configuration, size and number of national ministries and departments”.
“We will retain the existing ministries and departments until that review is completed,’ he said.
The Economic Freedom Fighter’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi criticised the new cabinet on eNCA saying a number of its members were implicated in state capture and would be taken away from working for the people because they would be appearing in court. “All he has done is a factionally balanced cabinet,” said Ndlozi.
“It means Ramaphosa is a weak president,’’ he said.
Ndlozi said Ramaphosa had ‘’bowed to factional pressure’’ by retaining Gigaba, whose crimes were ‘’close to treason’’ in that he had ‘’handed over state institutions to foreign nationals.’’ Gigaga had also ‘’lied under oath’’ .
‘’You can’t talk about a new dawn without the rule of law,’’ he said.
He welcomed the appointment of Nene as positive and an affirmation of African leadership, helping to dispel the belief that African leaders could not handle the economy.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa reacted angrily to Ramaphosa’s reshuffle, calling it a “snub and an insult”.
“It’s a joke, you reward people like Bathabile and promote them. This is a snub and an insult to the integrity of South Africa so we’re not impressed.”
Meanwhile ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the party welcomed changes to the executive announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening. Mabe commended Ramaphosa for his consultation of the party’s national officials and its alliance partners ahead of the announcement.
Ramaphosa’s announcement was delayed twice on Monday to make room for “more consultations”.
SACP leader Blade Nzimande said that his party was not consulted on the VAT increase announced in Gigaba’s budget speech. The party has called for all Cabinet members who are implicated in state capture, which includes Gigaba, to be removed.
In a statement from the presidency before his reshuffle was announced, Ramaphosa said he had submitted a copy of the public protector’s report into Des Van Rooyen to Parliament. The report found that Van Rooyen had breached the executive ethics code and the constitution when he deliberately misled Parliament about whether he had visited the Guptas.
“The President indicated to the Speaker that he will be engaging with Minister Van Rooyen on the content of the report of the Public Protector’s report and will revert to the National Assembly within the directed time frame on the action he has taken.”
This article has been updated.