Analysts separate the ministerial sheep from the goats
While the new cabinet has largely been welcomed, question marks still hang over some of the president's starting XXVIII.
President Cyril Ramaphosa during the swearing in of the new Presidential Cabinet at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, 30 May 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles
Political experts believe new minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development Thoko Didiza, along with a half a dozen others, are excellent appointments.
They highlighted the names of Didiza, Pravin Gordhan, Naledi Pandor, Tito Mboweni, Bheki Cele, Ronald Lamola, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Patricia de Lille as the core of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new A-Team.
All the commentators welcomed the intention to reduce the state with a smaller cabinet, but had reservations about the “bloating” of the executive structure with the appointment of many deputy ministers – a move they claimed had spoilt the whole idea of a reduced state.
Didiza’s appointment was also warmly welcomed by organised agriculture. African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) president Vuyo Mahlati described her second coming to the department as “positive”, saying it would help to bring stability in the industry.
Political analyst Zamikhaya Maseti said Didiza was qualified for the job, having served in the ministry under then president Thabo Mbeki before she was sidelined during the Zuma era.
“She had been there before. We need someone who will drive the combined department, which is facing a big change with the expropriation of land without compensation,” Maseti said.
This was echoed by Afasa’s Mahlati, who said having chaired the parliamentary ad-hoc committee to amend section 25 of the constitution, Didiza was “capable to drive the process”. “Didiza is a competent no-nonsense minister,” said Susan Booysen, research director at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.
According to Lesiba Teffo, a professor at the Centre for African Renaissance at Unisa, there were good and bad appointments in the new cabinet.
“It’s a mixed bag, but Cele, Didiza, Dlamini-Zuma, Gordhan and Pandor constitute the A-team to me. They have done well previously and they will do well in their new posts,” Teffo said.
Both Booysen and Maseti believe Pandor’s appointment as new minister of international relations and cooperation was a great move. According to Booysen, Pandor would make a huge difference in that department and Maseti praised the politician for being “very firm in personality”.
Teffo commended the inclusion of the youth, saying this was an investment in the future. This was echoed by Maseti, who said the young lions would help to energise the cabinet. Ronald Lamola, as minister of justice and correctional services at only 35, has two master’s degrees in law and can take the department forward.
The analysts commended Dlamini-Zuma, who they described as a “hard worker” with huge experience. She was versatile and an asset for cooperative governance and traditional affairs.
Gordhan was also an excellent choice. That Ramaphosa returned him to the department showed his confidence in him. Booysen said his and Mboweni’s re-appointments showed Ramaphosa’s consistency. She said Zweli Mkhize was the best to replace Aaron Motsoaledi as minister of health.
Under Motsoaledi, health had become stagnant. Maseti said Ramaphosa made a smart move by appointing Good party leader Patricia de Lille as minister of public works and infrastructure.
“This is good for reconciliation as people of colour had been complaining about being marginalised since 1994.”
The new Cabinet is designed to take SA to greater heights – but there are some who should not be there, political pundits said. The first bad appointment was that of Blade Nzimande, who was returned to higher education, which had the added tasks of science and technology.
Political analyst Andre Duvenhage said Nzimande did not deserve it because he failed to resolve a lot of crises that occurred at universities. In fact, he worsened them. According to another analyst, Susan Booysen, Nzimande was ousted previously because of the #FeesMustFall fiasco.
“That he is back? I don’t get it. It does not make functional sense at all,” she said. Nzimande was fired by Zuma from the portfolio but rehired by Ramaphosa as his minister of transport.
The retention of Angie Motshekga was also a bad move after numerous textbook scandals in Limpopo. The appointment of Thulas Nxesi as minister of employment and labour made no sense, said Booysen, because he had no record of service delivery. She said, under him, the department of public works was responsible for building the infrastructure at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.
“Radical action is needed to deal with the high unemployment, but I don’t see Nxesi doing this,” she said. Booysen said the shift of Aaron Motsoaledi to home affairs was a relief because his former health portfolio was stagnant. The minister was not progressing in that portfolio.
Booysen felt Gwede Mantashe’s appointment left many questions to be answered, but he denied any wrongdoing with regard to bribery by Bosasa. His appointment represented Ramaphosa’s ambiguity, but Mantashe could be safe if the ANC released its integrity committee report to clarify certain issues surrounding Mantashe and Bosasa bribery allegations. Mantashe had handled the Xolobeni mining issue extremely badly.
“However, it is good that mineral resources and energy have been merged,” Booysen said. Fikile Mbalula was another example of ambiguity in the ANC’s approach.
He, like Mantashe, were appointed despite allegations facing them. Booysen said Mbalula was flagged by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, and that issue was still unresolved, in the same way that Mantashe’s Bosasa matter was yet to be finalised.
However, Zamikhaya Maseti came to Mbalula’s defence, saying he had the potential to put transport back on track. He said Mbalula’s noise and boldness were the ingredients needed to deal with crisis in the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (Prasa) and to revitalise public transport.
“Mbalula’s energy is needed in transport. Our public transport environment is in a mess – there is no integration for rapid and easy travelling and commuting. Mbalula is suitable for this,” Maseti said.