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What to expect from Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle?

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Picture: Timothy Bernard African news Agency (ANA) – With the elections of the ANC leadership being concluded on December 19, 2022, at the 55th conference held at Nasrec, the top 7 are as follows: President – Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President – Paul Mashatile, National Chairperson – Gwede Mantashe, Secretary General – Fikile Mbalula, 1st Deputy SG – Nomvula Mokonyane, 2nd DSG – Maropene Ramokgopa, and Treaurer General – Gwen Ramokgopa. The election of Mashatile and Mbalula necessitate a Cabinet reshuffle, the writer says.

By B Dikela Majuqwana

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been in the Union Buildings since 2014 when he first became deputy president to Jacob Zuma. He has been president since February 2018, exactly five years ago.

Throughout his stay in the Union Buildings, we have never experienced such levels of anticipation for a Cabinet reshuffle. This is especially so since he secured victory at the ANC’s last national conference where his faction gained what appeared to be a decisive victory. Since then, a number of developments calling for a Cabinet reshuffle have emerged.

First, Deputy President David Mabuza has accepted he is on the way out. This is because of the Nasrec 2022 outcome where the governing party’s deputy president Mabuza was replaced by Paul Mashatile, a Ramaphosa ally. Second, Fikile Mbalula, another Ramaphosa ally, at the Nasrec election conference, won the position of ANC secretary-general previously held by Ace Magashule,

Ramaphosa’s archenemy, who was forced to step aside as a result of his legal troubles. The rise of Mbalula to the prestigious position means that he must vacate his present position as transport minister. This is because being the secretary-general of the ANC is a fulltime function.

There is also the position of the minister of public service and administration, which went vacant last year when the incumbent Ayanda Dlodlo left for the World Bank. This is a crucial position not to be left vacant for too long. Others anticipate a Cabinet reshuffle because they believe Ramaphosa should conduct purges targeted at those who challenged him for the Presidency at Nasrec and then went on to call for him to account for the Phala Phala scandal. Among these are Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Lindiwe Sisulu.

To crown it all, next year South Africa is due for its national general elections. The deepening crisis of electricity blackouts arising out of the implosion of Eskom has led many in the business community to call for the heads of Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan. Since both men are well-known Ramaphosa supporters, it is unlikely that the president will entertain such expectations.

That said, supporters of Ramaphosa believe a Cabinet reshuffle to prepare for the elections with a new team at the head of government has now become urgent. Therefore, it is almost certain that Mashatile will replace David as the country’s deputy president. Other Ramaphosa backers in the ANC will also expect to be rewarded with Cabinet posts for their loyalty and will see the retention of critics such as Sisulu in the name of ANC unity as a kick in the teeth.

Up to now, it would seem Ramaphosa has not seen a Cabinet reshuffle as something to be rushed. Perhaps in his mind, he believed he needed to get his State of the Nation Address (Sona) out of the way. Another reason may be that he appreciates there is a need to review the whole Cabinet organisation and to fashion it along different principles to reflect his agenda for the second term of his presidency within the guiding framework of the Freedom Charter.

There is hardly a doubt in the minds of many, including his supporters, that Ramaphosa’s first term is a total failure. If he wants to make an impact in his second and last term after the elections in 2024, he cannot avoid a Cabinet reorganisation. But what kind of reorganisation will best serve his goals?

Right now, there are some 27 ministerial posts in his Cabinet. If I were his adviser I would advise him to adopt the following sequence of measures: reduce the number of Cabinet posts to no more than 15 core ministers and introduce a spread of supporting deputy ministers in secondary roles; reorganise the Cabinet to strengthen roles that support growth in the physical and productive economy over those that emphasise consumption and spending but deliver little or no long-term value to society; identify priority ministerial roles with a preference for the strategic Cabinet ministers over those of a purely operational nature according to criteria determined by the need to achieve a shift towards a productive economy.

Only after having gone over this exercise should, he then consider identifying suitable people and allocating ministerial responsibility. Considerations of race, gender, age, and so on are in this respect less important than the capacity to deliver on the overall mission to get South Africa out of its present state of economic collapse. This is a hard piece of advice to follow when considering that South Africa is a young country, and the young vote is seen as important. The temptation, however, is to pursue a populist course and to adopt policies that secure votes in the short-term and not to care much about the economic destiny of the country in the long run.

Fortunately, the youth knows that its future does not lie in populist policies but in a country that can secure productive employment for young talented minds. While many may rejoice in gaining employment in administrative jobs, they fully appreciate this is not sustainable if the overall structure of the economy is premised on consumption and not on productive industry.

This is where the art of leadership plays a key role to educate the voter not to be content with populist promises that lead to dead ends but to demand to play a role in shaping policies that lead to collective flourish for all in society. I hope and pray that Ramaphosa will gather the courage to embark on a truly daring cabinet reorganisation.

Prof B Dikela Majuqwana – Founding member of the National Union of Scientists and Engineers