/ 3 July 2024

Broad political spectrum in unity government as Ramaphosa’s executive is sworn in


Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Wednesday swore in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new executive, spanning nine parties across the political spectrum from the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on the left to the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) on the right.

Ministers and deputy ministers took their oath of office three days after Ramaphosa announced their appointment after weeks of tense coalition negotiations prompted by the ANC’s loss of its majority in the May elections.

The ANC and the Democratic Alliance (DA), the biggest partner in the new government of national unity, finally reached accord just hours before the announcement.

The DA now holds six cabinet portfolios — John Steenhuisen in agriculture, Siviwe Gwarube in health, Dean Macpherson in public works and infrastructure, Dion George in forestry, fisheries and the environment, Leon Schreiber in home affairs and Solly Malatsi in communications and digital technologies.

Macpherson confirmed on the sidelines of the event that his first act as minister would be to inform ministers and MPs that the state would not provide them with new official homes, offices or furniture.

“It is my prerogative,” Macpherson said.

While his party’s inclusion in cabinet was central to the formation of a coalition — the sticking point was how many ministries it would get after demanding a dozen — the inclusion of the PAC and FF Plus was never assumed.

FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald said before the ceremony his party had agreed to join the coalition on principle, with no expectation of sitting at the cabinet table.

“I got a call from the president at 10 past seven on Sunday night,” he said, adding that this then necessitated an emergency meeting of the party’s highest structures to decide whether to accept the surprise nomination.

Groenewald said yes to Ramaphosa’s offer of the correctional services portfolio at 8.55pm, five minutes before the public announcement of the names of the new ministers was due. It eventually happened an hour later.

The first member of cabinet to take the oath on Wednesday was Deputy President Paul Mashatile, whose re-appointment was never in doubt.

There were two light moments in the solemn proceedings, one unscripted and the other perhaps less so.

Mineral and Petroleum Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe fumbled as he read the oath and swore to divulge state secrets, not to refrain from doing so as the script reads.

Zondo quipped: “So if there are any leaks…”

Earlier, when Ramaphosa read out the names of his 32 ministers, he paused after naming Steenhuisen, then asked with a laugh: “Did I say Dr Steenhuisen?’”

It seemed a blatant tease as the DA leader is defensive about not holding a degree.

The cabinet has grown by two portfolios, while the number of deputy ministers to 43 — a function of having to accommodate the parties in the executive.

The United Democratic Movement now has two deputy ministers, with party leader Bantu Holomisa becoming the deputy minister of defence and military veterans. Al Jama-ah has one. Its leader, Ganief Hendricks, is the deputy minister of social development.

Although they are part of the government of national unity, Rise Mzansi and United Africans Transformation are not taking up seats in the executive.