Ramaphosa’s “Cabinet recycle, not reshuffle”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has decided to not make any major changes in his latest Cabinet reshuffle.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa announced appointments to the two vacant positions left by former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and the late Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, and made a new appointment to the department of communications.

Ramaphosa announced that former communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane would take over as minister of environmental affairs.

Siyabonga Cwele, who was serving as the minister of telecommunications, moves to the department of home affairs a week after Gigaba stepped down a day before the public protector’s deadline for Ramaphosa to take disciplinary action against him.

In his resignation letter Gigaba, who said he would not step down a week before, said he was doing it for the “sake of our country and the movement which he belongs”.


Gigaba’s departure came shortly after the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court upheld an earlier finding that he lied to the high court about giving the elite Oppenheimer family’s Fireblade Aviation permission to operate a VIP terminal at OR Tambo International airport. This was followed by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings that he had told “untruths” to the courts and was in violation of the Executive Members’ Ethics Act.

Perhaps the biggest change to was the appointment of Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams as communications minister.

“The Cabinet should have members who are committed to serve the people of our country are mindful to the need to have a resolute and stable Cabinet that is able to effectively lead the growth, renewal and transformation effort we have embarked upon”.

Ramaphosa’s move to collapse the communications portfolios, was indicative of what he needs to do with a number of other ministries in the Cabinet, said chief economist at Econometrix Azar Jammine.

The expansion of Cabinet under Jacob Zuma had been a means to “dish out patronage” Jammine said and Ramaphosa would have to claw-back from that.

There was huge scope for the president to do this, he added, given that, at 33 ministries, South Africa had one of the largest Cabinets in the world.

The fact that Ramaphosa had held off on making more substantial changes to the executive suggested that he was still “too scared to ruffle the feathers of the Zuma faction,” argued Jammine.

Ramaphosa’s announcement was delayed by over 50 minutes with the president apologising for being late as he was held up by a national council of provinces meeting in Ekurhuleni.

Ramaphosa did not bow to the Democratic Alliance’s pressure to fire Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini, the opposition have the president until close of business on Thursday to respond to its application pushing for her removal her from his executive.

In September, Dlamini was ordered to pay 20% of Black Sash’s legal costs in the social grant saga by the constitutional court. The court also ordered the National Prosecutions Authority to find if she had lied under oath.

On Thursday, the Presidency announced that it would oppose the DA’s application.

Professor Jannie Rossouw, head of the School of Economic and Business Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, called Ramaphosa’s actions a “Cabinet recycle not a reshuffle”.

“Clearly Mr Ramaphosa is not yet in charge of politics in South Africa,” said Rossouw.

“We will have to wait until after the next general election to find out what is really going on.”

Deputy Minister of Energy Thembi Majola also tendered in her resignation — effective from January 1 2019 — to attend to family commitments.

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Tebogo Tshwane
Tebogo Tshwane

Tebogo Tshwane is an Adamela Trust financial journalism trainee at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a general news intern at Eyewitness News and a current affairs show presenter at the Voice of Wits FM. Tshwane is passionate about socioeconomic issues and understanding how macroeconomic activities affect ordinary people. She holds a journalism honours degree from Wits University. 

Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.
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