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Presidency shake-up as JZ cronies leave

Deputy President David Mabuza is bringing top civil servants from his previous office as premier of Mpumalanga to bolster his team.

Mpumalanga director general Thulani Mdakane and deputy director general in the office of the premier, Thamsanqa Ngwenya, will join Mabuza from May 1 as head of the deputy president’s office and head of the office’s communications respectively. On Tuesday, they confirmed their secondment to the Mail & Guardian.

The appointment of the two officials forms part of the changes in the presidency since Cyril Ramaphosa was elected the country’s president in February. Ramaphosa appointed Mabuza as his deputy when he announced his Cabinet reshuffle in March.

A number of senior officials in the presidency, who were close to former president Jacob Zuma, have since left. These include former chief operating officer Lakela Kaunda, former deputy director general in Zuma’s private office and presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga and the former chief director of communications and research, Sifiso Moshoetsi.

Kaunda, a close Zuma ally, has now joined the office of the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Zweli Mkhize, and Moshoetsi has been moved to the Government Communication and Information System.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said Kaunda had been replaced by the deputy director general responsible for Cabinet matters, Lusanda Mxenge, in an acting capacity.

The former chief of staff in the deputy president’s office, Busani Ngcaweni, had been appointed to Ngqulunga’s position in an acting capacity, said Diko. Other new appointments included Steyn Speed as the president’s political adviser, Nokukhanya Jele as legal adviser and Trudi Makhaya as economic adviser. Ramaphosa is happy to retain Dr Cassius Lubisi as director general in the presidency.

The former presidential spokesperson, Bongani Majola, and media liaison specialist Proffesor Ndawonde, both appointed by Kaunda, had been moved from the president’s office to the office of deputy president. Diko said the presidency was yet to make a final decision of where to place Majola and Ndawonde.

She said the plan was to build one communications team within the presidency.

“The approach is going to be a shared function within the presidency. It does not make sense to have separate communication teams for the office of the deputy president and the president.”

Meanwhile, the M&G understands that the presidency is considering the re-establishment of the policy co-ordination and advisory services unit.

The unit, which was headed by Joel Netshitenzhe during former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration, was dissolved by Zuma’s administration after it created the performance, monitoring and evaluation department.

A senior government official in the presidency said the decision to re-establish the unit was prompted by tensions between former monitoring and evaluation minister Jeff Radebe and Zuma.

Radebe, he said, had been using the National Development Plan, which fell under his department, to campaign to be elected as ANC president — something that angered Zuma, who wanted former ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him as ANC president.

Another senior government official said bringing the policy unit back to the presidency would make Ramaphosa’s work easier. “The reality is that the policy unit, and the reason they put Netshitenzhe there, was Mbeki needed somebody steeped in ANC policies, someone who will be able to interpret the implementation of government policy and advise him on any intervention that he needed to make as president to get things moving. When we killed it [the unit], we created a big gap.”

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