/ 1 July 2024

Good to govern: After a month of waiting, Ramaphosa finally appoints his unity cabinet

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President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his Government of National Unity cabinet late on Sunday night. (Elmond Jiyane)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has included members of six opposition parties in his new cabinet after two weeks of fraught coalition negotiations following the ANC’s loss of its majority in the May elections.

Ramaphosa announced the cabinet late on Sunday night.

Former opposition leader John Steenhuisen was named agriculture minister, one of six portfolios that went to the Democratic Alliance. The party’s chief whip Siviwe Gwarube, 34, will become education minister while its provincial chairman in KwaZulu-Natal, Dean Macpherson, was named as minister of public works.

Leon Schreiber is the new minister of home affairs. He was the DA’s spokesman on public service and administration prior to the elections and regarded as one of its most effective members of its shadow cabinet.

Ramaphosa named Inkatha Freedom Party president Velinkosini Hlabisa as minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs and the party’s deputy president Mzamo Buthelezi as the minister of public service and administration.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald was named as minister of correctional services in the government of national unity.

In a long-awaited reconfiguration, that department was split from justice, where Ramaphosa named Thembi Nkadimeng to replace Ronald Lamola, who was promoted to minister of international relations.

Ramaphosa retained Enoch Godongwana as finance minister, and named key political ally Gwede Mantashe as minister of mineral and petroleum resources. The energy portfolio was splintered off, as expected, and given to Kgosientso Ramokgopa. 

Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie, who has made clear that he wanted a cabinet post as reward for joining Ramaphosa’s coalition government, was named minister of sport. GOOD Party leader Patricia de Lille will stay on as minister of tourism.

Ramaphosa had initially offered that post to the DA in lieu of trade and industry. He withdrew it, however, amid objections within his party that their new coalition partner could not be trusted to walk the line on affirmative action and competition policy. Instead, the president then reserved agriculture for the DA.

The party got six cabinet seats in total, with its spokesman on finance Dion George named as minister of forestry, fisheries and the environment.

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The IFP’s Nkhuleko Hlengwa, who has been the chairman of parliament’s watchdog Standing Committee on Public Accounts, will be the deputy minister of public transport.

Ramaphosa said he hoped that the country would see itself reflected not only in the composition of the cabinet, but in the policies it will implement.

“We have had to consider not only the immediate needs of the country, but also the needs of all our people,” he said.

The announcement caps a fortnight of horse-trading between the ANC and the DA as to how many and which portfolios he would assign to the latter in the governing coalition.

There was division within the DA’s negotiating team as to whether it would be wiser to enter into cabinet or a so-called confidence and supply accord, which would have the merit of preserving ideological divides. The party’s donors were similarly divided.

But the debate was swiftly settled in favour of power-sharing within the executive in a bid to make a meaningful impact in the national interest, party founder Tony Leon told the Mail & Guardian shortly before the presidential announcement.

The DA initially demanded a dozen seats but was negotiated down to six. To sweeten the deal, Ramaphosa agreed to name a second deputy finance minister, with that post going to Ashor Sarupen.

The trade and industry post in the end went to the ANC’s Parks Tau. Angie Motshekga will move from basic education to defence. Her one deputy minister will be United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, and the other Richard Mkhungo.

Nought came of the DA’s designs on the deputy presidency, or a presidency ministry. Ramaphosa retained Paul Mashatile as his deputy and Khumbudzo Ntshavheni as minister in the presidency.

Ramaphosa said he had “considered it necessary” to separate some portfolios “to ensure that there is sufficient focus on key issues”. 

The splitting of ministries and the additional deputy ministry posts also allowed Ramaphosa more positions to allocate to the nine of the 11 parties which agreed to participate in the government of national unity. In total there are now 32 ministers and 43 deputy ministers.

The electricity and energy ministries have been merged under the current electricity minister, Kgosientso Ramokgopa (ANC), while the minerals component will now fall under a Mineral and Petroleum Resources ministry, headed by the ANC’s Gwede Mantashe.

Agriculture has been split from Land Reform and Rural Development, with the former falling under the DA’s John Steenhuisen, and the latter part of the ministry being placed under the leadership of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania president, Mzwanele Nyhontsho.

Significantly, the president’s allies in the ANC are in control of the security cluster. Senzo Mchunu takes over as police minister, and Ntshaveni remains in control of state security.