Part II: The seven principles of picking a Cabinet

  • Constitutional alignment and diversity: The reconfigured government upholds the Constitution’s underlying values, which include transparency, accountability and participation, and the principles of co-operative government and sound intergovernmental relations. The ideal configuration and composition of the Cabinet should reflect the diversity of South African society and support the constitutional imperative of substantive equality, especially in terms of gender and race.
  • Fiscal efficiency: To increase value for money for taxpayers and citizens, and to help relieve pressure on the public fiscus. Reducing cost is an important goal, but should not be a predominant one. It should be guided by other principles and values.
  • Joined-up government and public service: To increase co-ordination across state agencies and departments, support the effective implementation of policy and strengthen the government’s ability to deliver public services efficiently.
  • Coherent decision-making at the top/centre of government: To improve and sharpen the Cabinet’s ability to lead decisively and to provide nimble and flexible political management.
  • Inter-dependence and complexity: In recognition of the fact that the challenges that governments and societies face are cross-cutting and thematically inter-disciplinary, as well as profoundly complex, requires an innovative and non-linear approach to Cabinet decision-making and leadership that mitigates the risks of a siloed structure.
  • Clear mandates and boundaries: To rationalise roles and responsibilities of ministries and departments, so everyone knows who is accountable for what, and to help refine and sharpen the relationship between the Cabinet (political decision-making) and the public service (implementation).
  • Do-ability and sustainability: Any reconfiguration or restructuring of government must be plausible both politically and administratively. It must balance the cost of not changing with the cost of doing so. Any reconfiguration plan must increase the chance of overcoming embedded territorialism and a resistant political economy, thereby ensuring it is sustainable.

READ Part III: The right-sized Cabinet — what academics say

Richard Calland
Richard Calland
Richard Calland has for over twenty years been working in the fields of democratic governance and sustainable development in South Africa and beyond. Based at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where he is Associate Professor in Public Law, he built and led its Democratic Governance & Rights Unit from 2007-2016.

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