The South African Communist Party (SACP) has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s latest reshuffle, saying the decision to merge the telecommunications and communications departments was a signal that the Ramaphosa administration was listening to the public’s desire for the size of Cabinet to be reduced.
The two departments will remain separate until the fifth administration, following the national elections in 2019, Ramaphosa said.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa announced Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams as the new minister of telecommunications. She is considered a rising star in the ANC top structures and was appointed deputy minister of telecommunications and postal services in March 2017.
The president also announced that Siyabonga Cwele — the outgoing minister of telecommunications — will take over as minister of home affairs. Nomvula Mokonyane has been moved to take over the environmental affairs portfolio.
This is to ensure “better alignment and coordination” of matters critical to the future of the economy, particularly in the context of the fourth industrial revolution, Ramaphosa said.
The president also announced the resignation of deputy minister of energy Thembi Majola, with effect from January 1 2019 to attend to family matters.
SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said the president had consulted its alliance partners ahead of the decision. While consultation did not mean that the SACP had supported all the choices of personnel, Mashilo said the engagement by the presidency was what they had been calling for “all along”.
“The signal that the president has given relating to the merger of the departments is very important. It shows that the movement has listened as South Africans have been saying there are too many ministers and too many departments,” Mashilo said.
“This should be welcomed by all South Africans,” he added.
Mashilo said it would be inappropriate to comment on the suitability of Mokonyane or any of the other appointees, adding that it would have been ill-advised for Ramaphosa to have made wholesale Cabinet changes so close to election time as this would cause unnecessary internal tensions ahead of the poll.
In his announcement, Ramaphosa said he had sought an appropriate mix of experience, capability, gender and generational mix in his choices to ensure a “resolute and stable Cabinet”.
Ramaphosa said the alignment of departments would continue after elections, with the decisions to merge the two being the “first wave” in this alignment process.
Cosatu also welcomed the reshuffle, saying that Ramaphosa was “gradually fixing and cleaning up” an “inherited executive that for a long time had been plagued by scandals and controversies”.
Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the federation hoped the new ministers would “view this as an opportunity to serve the people and not themselves and their narrow interests.”
Cosatu said the merger of communications and telecommunications and postal services was a ‘’good decision.”
“We hope that no worker will lose his or her job as a result of this decision,” Pamla said.
Cosatu had told the president that Dlamini and Mokonyane should be among those who were “released” considering their “questionable actions” in their previous positions.
Both were “an albatross around his neck as long as they continue to serve under his leadership and will haunt his executive until he acts.”
However, Cosatu said it understood that Ramaphosa had inherited former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet and was “managing the political contradictions that go with it” having removed 12 ministers since he took office.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said while they welcomed Ramaphosa’s commitment to making Cabinet more capable, he had missed another opportunity to fire ‘’delinquent ministers’’ including Bathabile Dlamini and Mokonyane.
By appointing Cwele, Ramaphosa had continued to ‘’shuffle dead wood’’, Maimane said.
Ramaphosa had also missed an opportunity to further trim a bloated executive, which could operate with 15 ministries, by not merging other ministries.
The DA would continue with its action to have Dlamini fired over her ‘’delinquency’’ and to have the NPA investigate perjury charges against her. Mokonyane had ‘’destroyed’’ the water and sanitation department, which was effectively paralysed by corruption.
He said Ramaphosa, instead of cleaning house, had reshuffled the decks to please ANC insiders.