/ 3 February 2023

Time for Ramaphosa to boot the costly dead wood in the cabinet

Cyril Ramaphosa at a political discussion and debate themed How can we preserve the legacy of former President Nelson Mandela? in Durban on July 16 2014. Rajesh Jantilal, AFP
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Rajesh Jantilal/AFP)

When Cyril Ramaphosa became president in 2018, he committed his administration to a “new dawn” characterised by a crackdown on corruption and an adherence to fiscal discipline to ensure that his government secured value for money in its spending.

Vanity projects and irrational spending would become a thing of the past, along with state capture and rogue spending by leaders of the ANC serving in his government.

How wrong he was.

In addition to the looting of Covid-19 emergency funds released in terms of the 2020 state of national disaster, Ramaphosa’s term has been marked by a series of acts of financial lunacy by members of his cabinet.

Look at Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s plan for a R22 million glow-in-the-dark flagpole. He was publicly censured by the president. But the censure was only verbal and, as a result, Mthethwa now wants to splurge R30 million on a new national orchestra while continuing to starve those battling to survive in the provinces of funding.

Mthethwa is not alone.

Lindiwe Sisulu, the minister of tourism, is no stranger to unnecessary spending.

Her previous department, human settlements, water and sanitation, was central to the irregular expenditure and corruption during Covid‑19 in the provision of temporary residential units, paying, in one case, R15.3 million for 40 tin shacks through the Housing Development Agency, which fell under her.

Now SA Tourism, which is under Sisulu’s portfolio, wants to spend almost R1 billion on sponsoring English premiership club Tottenham Hotspur to bring tourists to our country.

Sisulu’s spokesperson first denied that she was aware of the deal, but later said that although she knew of the plan, she had not been briefed on it.

Under normal circumstances, spending R1 billion for sleeve space — Tottenham already have sponsors on the chest and back of their matchday kits — on a team that last won the league in 1961 would be stupid.

Doing so at a time when the government is battling for funds to fix ailing infrastructure, support 30 million people through various forms of social grants and raise the R1.25 trillion to stop the power cuts that are destroying our economy is nothing short of criminal.

The leadership elections in the governing ANC — and the reshuffle this has necessitated — presents Ramaphosa with the perfect opportunity to give Sisulu her just reward for her assaults on the public purse in the various portfolios she has occupied.

Ramaphosa needs to do the right thing and release Sisulu from serving in his cabinet — and the nation fiscus from servitude to the tourism minister — along with Mthethwa and the rest of the deadwood he has been carrying since 2018.