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By Stephen Tau

Journalist


Reshuffle a golden opportunity for Ramaphosa to prove who’s in charge

Cabinet reshuffle presents a golden opportunity for Ramaphosa to show his strength, failing which the ANC will face a tough 2024 election.


Everyone would prefer a complete cabinet overhaul prioritising competence and ethical leadership by President Cyril Ramaphosa, given the various crises the country faces, but this, unfortunately, is unlikely to happen.

These are the views of Pranish Desai, from Good Governance Africa (GGA), ahead of the much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle announcement by Ramaphosa on Monday night.

Ramaphosa has for several months now been under pressure to announce his Cabinet reshuffle in the wake of worsening poor service delivery.

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The reason why huge changes are unlikely, according to Desai, is due to the impending general elections next year.

“Reshuffles are primarily political events, and the political dynamics nationally and in the ANC will change a lot depending on those 2024 election results,” he said.

Commenting further on the reshuffle, Desai said the president’s chief aim will be to demonstrate to the public that he is prioritising the energy crisis, as well as outlining the Cabinet he intends to take through to the 2024 national elections.

Two interesting posts to fill

“It will be interesting to see who Ramaphosa appoints as his minister for electricity, and clarity on whether ANC deputy president Paul Mashatile also becomes state deputy president,” said Desai.

“There have been suggestions that the main reason this reshuffle has taken so long is because Ramaphosa is not eager to bring Mashatile in at this stage and if that is the case, then how events unfold will give a clear indication of whether Ramaphosa’s hand is actually as strong as was suggested after last year’s ANC elective conference.”

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Also weighing in on the deputy president vacancy, independent energy and political analyst Tshepo Kgadima said the ANC’s 55th elective conference has long put to rest and settled the question of who would succeed former deputy president David Mabuza.

“There is no justification whatsoever to have delayed the appointment of Paul Mashatile as Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, except of course if such a delay was necessitated by possible tendering of a resignation by the current President Cyril Ramaphosa due to the step-aside rule following the Constitutional Court dismissal of the president’s fundamentally flawed application for review and rescission of the Section 89 panel report,” said Kgadima.

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Political analyst from the North West University (NWU) Prof. Andre Duvenhage also agrees that the most important shift will be on the appointment of the new deputy president.

“My understanding is that there is an element of conflict between the office of the president about the appointment of Paul Mashatile and I don’t think the two are completely aligned and there are people warning the president that he may endanger his position by appointing Mashatile.

“Mashatile, without a doubt, has high political aspirations and he is linked to a number of people including what was called the radical economic transformation (RET) faction who have close relationships with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)… so there is a real danger that needs to be carefully assessed, hence the delay in the Cabinet reshuffle announcement,” said Duvenhage.

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The minister of electricity post could also prove to be a headache for Ramaphosa.

The much-anticipated appointment of the so-called minister of electricity is legally untenable and unconstitutional,” Kgadima said.

“Unfortunately for the people of South Africa, the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) failed to apply their mind with regards to legality of creating such a Cabinet post and thus, misled the president to announce what is evidently a knee jerk reaction to a self-created electricity crisis.”

Kgadima says he would be very surprised if Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan is retained, particularly in the public enterprises portfolio, where his tenure has been disastrous, characterised by gross incompetence and compradorism.

What about other ministers?

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma:

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will be remembered for the stance she took towards the end of last year when she voted in favour of the Section 89 report into Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm scandal, despite strict instructions from ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe warning MPs what would happen should they vote in favour of the report.

According to Duvenhage, while Ramaphosa would like to get rid of her, he’ll probably simply move her to another portfolio.

“I think she (Dlamini-Zuma) still enjoys a lot of support and I think she also in a way has some links to Mashatile,” said Duvenhage.

Lindiwe Sisulu:

Duvenhage believes Sisulu, one of the ANC leaders who have been outspoken and critical in the past over Ramaphosa’s leadership, is on her way out.

Bheki Cele:

“I expect Cele to be redeployed to Intelligence, in order for Ramaphosa to keep the Zulu constituency closer. Remember, there is no one in the ANC’s Top 7 who is Zulu and therefore that is very critical,” said Duvenhage.

Another political analyst Piet Croucamp say Dlamini-Zuma is likely to be moved to another department while chances of Sisulu remaining in Cabinet are rather slim.

Time for significant changes

“The president has kept us in the lurch for so long and therefore these can’t just be cosmetic changes and if he doesn’t cut deep, he’s probably going to be under enormous criticism from the public about why did he hold in contempt for so long if the changes he makes are not fundamental,” Croucamp added.

Meanwhile a legal expert, Adv. Francois Botes, is of the view the Ramaphosa should not only consider reshuffling his Cabinet but also a total overhaul.

“Some of the prominent ministers, unfortunately did not make it to the ANC NEC. Ministers such as Pravin Gordhan, whom I think the end of his political career is imminent, while somebody like Gwede Mantashe, although he is a prominent leader in the ANC whose hanging in for dear life, without the president’s support, his (Mantashe’s) political career is also hanging on a very thin line.

“Regarding the so-called seasoned politicians, the likes of Naledi Pandor and Bheki Cele, I think their future is also uncertain,” said Botes.

Botes said he doesn’t believe Dlamini-Zuma will be retained, stressing that if the president cannot rely on her support and loyalty, there won’t be space for her in Cabinet.

Botes says the Cabinet reshuffle presents a golden opportunity for Ramaphosa to show his strength and flex his muscles, failing which the ANC is staring down the barrel of a gun, which doesn’t seem to be favourable for them in the upcoming general elections.

“The general public is desperate for services. People are desperate for hope and it seems the ANC doesn’t have policy in place to alleviate the pressure that the ordinary South African is faced with everyday.”