President Cyril Ramaphosa (right) and Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
What is one to make about Cyril Ramaphosa’s much anticipated cabinet reshuffle — one that was supposed to be his show of strength ahead of the 2024 general election — where the governing ANC faces a very real prospect of a coalition future. Well here’s one thing we can take that can make us all feel the concerns and interests of an increasingly depressed nation are being taken seriously, Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma, a 30 year cabinet veteran is now the minister in the presidency responsible for women, youth and persons with disabilities.
Clearly the political considerations of an unpopular president took primacy over the fate of the largest segment of South Africa’s population, who carry the weight of the highest unemployment rates in the industrialised world and gender based violence. And that’s the story of this reshuffle, isn’t it.
As Ramaphosa said it was not an overhaul that a country facing an economic crisis as a result of crumbling infrastructure and collapsing confidence levels has been calling out for since he won re-election as ANC president in December. It was about filling vacancies, crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.
Introducing another politician, albeit one with an engineering background into the electricity crisis in Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa will add another layer of complexity in fixing what is a complex problem — Eskom. He’ll have to get in the ring with powerful ministers such as Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan from the department of mineral resources and the department of public enterprises respectively. They are now shrinking violets and are the bulwarks of the Ramaphosa administration even though they rarely see eye-to-eye.
A few weeks ago, I speculated in hope more than anything else that the president would bring in someone without skin in the ANC game to undertake the task of restructuring Eskom — which is in essence the load-shedding job. A technocrat rather than another policy maker. But we are where we are, the doctor has lots to navigate in the coming weeks and months, chief amongst them the sanctioning of a new Eskom chief executive officer and hopefully a new and supportive executive team.
The process of replacing Andre de Ruyter, who in the end turned out to be yet another poor CEO at Eskom despite the well documented corruption within the organisation, should be well underway, or it should be. We are on day 128 of load shedding.