/ 14 February 2023

Reshuffle will come after budget speech, Ramaphosa tells ANC national working committee

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP

President Cyril Ramaphosa is said to have reassured the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) that he intends to announce a reconfigured cabinet after Finance Minister Enoch Godogwana delivers the budget speech on Wednesday next week.

Insiders with intimate knowledge of the Monday meeting have told Mail & Guardian that Ramaphosa told the NWC that it was a “matter of time” before he announced who would get the chop in his cabinet. 

There has been widespread speculation that Ramaphosa will axe non-performing ministers. But some of those within his inner circle say there will not be a major shift in his cabinet any time soon, with the president only making minor changes.

The three party leaders who spoke to M&G said they expected Ramaphosa to announce replacements for Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and former Public Administrations Minister Ayanda Dlodlo. 

Dlodlo’s position has been vacant for over a year after she left the country following her appointment as an executive director on the board of the World Bank in Washington in April. Mbalula was recently elected as the secretary general of the ANC, a full-time position at the party’s Luthuli House headquarters.

ANC insiders said Ramaphosa also spoke about his announcement of an electricity minister, saying the person appointed would also be a project manager responsible for power utility Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile power stations. 

“The president was clear that the ANC leadership cannot panic over the reshuffle. He said it will happen soon and I think we are likely to see some movement at the end of next week,” one party leader said. 

In last week’s State of the Nation address (Sona), the president announced a state of disaster on electricity. He shocked his close allies when he announced that he would appoint a minister of electricity in his office, who would be responsible for energy recovery.

Clashes between senior ministers Pravin Gordhan and Gwede Mantashe have crippled efforts to manage the energy crisis which has battered the economy and now threatens food security.

Cabinet ministers who spoke to M&G on the sidelines of Sona, said they had expected Ramaphosa to announce that Eskom would be returned to the department of mineral resources and energy — under Mantashe — as resolved at the ANC’s December elective conference. Instead, Ramaphosa changed tactics and announced that the utility would remain under Gordhan’s public enterprises portfolio, alongside the new ministry in his office.

During a media briefing on Friday, Mbalula said the electricity minister would act as a “project manager” and advise the president on the stability of energy supply.

Speculation among party insiders is that the electricity minister will be appointed from Ramaphosa’s inner circle of current and former strategic advisors. 

“It’s unlikely to be someone from his ANC circles. He will want someone neutral with the skills necessary for the job,” one high-ranking ANC leader said. 

ANC deputy president Paul Mashatile, former KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala, former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau and international relations advisor to Ramaphosa, Maropeni Ramokgopa, were sworn in as members of parliament last week, fuelling speculation that the president will add them to his cabinet. 

Ramaphosa has left the country and his party in limbo regarding the reshuffle, which was expected to take place after many of his cabinet ministers failed to make it to the ANC’s national executive committee at the December conference. 

Insiders linked to outgoing deputy president David Mabuza earlier told M&G there were those in Ramaphosa’s camp trying to convince their man to “stay put” as caretaker deputy president until next year’s general election. 

There is also talk among insiders in Ramaphosa’s camp that Mashatile should be moved to a “critical portfolio” in cabinet outside of the Union Buildings, to avoid him “interfering” in matters such as the energy recovery plan. 

TimesLive reported that the presidency had confirmed that Ramaphosa had asked Mabuza to remain in his position until the modalities of his departure and transition had been finalised.

But Mabuza’s allies said he was resolute that he would not stay on as deputy president.