/ 9 March 2021

Mini KZN cabinet reshuffle as Zikalala moves to fill vacant post

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala (centre). (GCIS)

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has reshuffled his cabinet in order to fill the post of transport MEC, which has been vacant since the death of Bheki Ntuli from Covid-19 complications in January.

Zikalala, who is also the ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson, had come under fire from opposition parties for the delay in appointing a new MEC to the key portfolio, which includes public safety, because of fear of alienating competing factions in the party in the province ahead of elective regional conferences and the local government elections.

The mini-reshuffle has left the bulk of Zikalala’s 10-member cabinet unscathed, with none of its members being axed and only MPL Jomo Sibiya being added to it.

On Monday, behind the scenes preparations had already begun for a move of the province’s human settlements MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni, to transport and public safety.

Nkonyeni, a former KwaZulu-Natal SACP provincial executive committee (PEC) member, had previously served as speaker of the provincial legislature. She was charged for corruption over a R144-million water purification contract, but charges against her and fellow ANC provincial leader Mike Mabuyakhulu were dropped in 2012.

Nkonyeni was replaced by Sibiya, a key figure in the campaign to elect Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president in 2017, in the human settlements and public works portfolio, according to sources in the province.

The swearing in of the two MECs, carried out by KwaZulu-Natal deputy judge president Mjabuliseni Madondo, was carried out quietly in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday, with no prior announcement being made by either the ANC or the premier.

Sibiya’s appointment is understood to have met with a level of resistance at the ANC deployment committee, which had held a “stormy” meeting on Sunday at which Sibiya was named by the premier, in his capacity as the ANC chairperson in the province.

Sibiya’s appointment is likely to anger supporters of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule in the province. They had been lobbying Zikalala to appoint former ANC provincial secretary Super Zuma to the post, a move that they said would have “balanced” the cabinet to their satisfaction.

Other contenders for the post had been SACP provincial chairperson James Nxumalo and MPLs Siboniso Duma and Sifiso Sonjica. 

Another ANC source said that the ANC deployment committee had held a “stormy” meeting on Sunday night over the appointment, with the name of Sibiya — which had been put forward by Zikalala — not finding favour with the rest of the committee members.

An ANC MPL who had been backing Super Zuma said they had been informed that Sibiya would be appointed.

“Yes. It is confirmed,”’ the MPL said. “We never expected this one.”

Zikalala’s move took the bulk of his colleagues in cabinet and the ANC PEC by surprise on Tuesday, with most not being aware of the appointment before it was made.

Lennox Mabaso, the spokesperson for Zikalala, confirmed the appointment and said a statement would be issued in due course.