A Cabinet reshuffle that signals a President still trapped in cadre deployment

A finance minister with a dodgy past, centralised intelligence in the Presidency, recycling people who should be fired into “unimportant” ministries and a still-bloated Cabinet, does not inspire confidence

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06/08/2021 06:58:03

A Cabinet reshuffle that signals a President still trapped in cadre deployment

There’s not much to cheer about in President Ramaphosa’s new Cabinet.

This was the President’s chance to make significant change to improve his Cabinet and move out those accused of corruption and poor performance. Yet his decisions leave us questioning who’s actually in control and the purpose of this reshuffle.

Serial underperformers were retained, such as Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe (the 100MW notice promised on 10 June has still not been issued), Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula (AARTO, driver’s licence debacles, e-toll indecision, road carnage) and Minister of Police Bheki Cele (SAPS missing in action).

Too many ministers who were found wanting at the State Capture Commission remain in Cabinet: Mantashe, Ayanda Dlodlo, Zizi Kodwa. Are there really no others available?

We cannot afford to have members of the executive who have either been implicated in serious corruption or been shown to be inept, if we are to inspire growth and investment in South Africa.

Retaining MIA Deputy President David Mabuza signals how tightly bound the President is to ANC factionalism. Mabuza has little to show for his duty to the nation and is steeped in a massive fraud and political interference case, linked to his activities whilst Premier of Mpumalanga.

A decade ago the new Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, was linked to the mysterious disappearance of about R120 million in textile workers’ pension funds. Now he is given the keys to the National Treasury.

In August 2012, an inquiry into an investment company called Canyon Springs, which lost the workers’ pension funds, found that Godongwana and his wife – who owned 50% of Canyon Springs – were among those who “were party to the carrying on of the business of the company, either fraudulently or at least recklessly”, it was reported at the time. Godongwana had denied any knowledge that the pension money had been invested in the company. It’s believed that the money was never recovered. We are not aware of the Canyon Springs inquiry report being overturned. Godongwana was Deputy Minister of Economic Development at the time, and resigned soon thereafter, which was believed to have been linked to his involvement in this scandal, and his need to avoid a misconduct inquiry by Parliament’s ethics committee into allegations he failed to declare business and financial interests.

In November 2020, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa made a submission to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts about the Development Bank of South Africa, which Godongwana has chaired since September 2019. Holomisa told Scopa that Godongwana was “a well-known politically exposed person” who “may have too many skeletons in his cupboard of the wrong kind” and listed the financial scandals in which he was implicated.

The President has also closed down the Ministry of State Security and relocated the disgraced State Security Agency under his wing in the Presidency. Whilst this was disastrously managed in the past, there are concerns about centralising power here. More worrying is the promotion of the previously compromised Kodwa. Recently, Kodwa told the State Capture Commission that he took money to buy a Jeep from his “friend” at IT business EOH, claimed there was no suggestion of any kickback but still hasn’t repaid this “loan”. We also know that EOH was implicated in corrupt transactions with the State. The President instils no confidence when he entrusts someone this naive – or dishonest – with one of the biggest secret funds and most powerful covert organisations in the country. The SSA budget (which runs directly from the National Treasury) for 2021/22 is R5.3 billion.

While Ramaphosa may feel safer keeping the SSA closer, and this was recommended by a major inquiry into the service, this is not a good long-term move and we trust this is a very temporary decision to allow him time to find the best person for the job. The SSA should never be in a position to become the President’s private intelligence agency, which signals a collapsing government at war with itself.

The Cabinet remains bloated with too many underperforming ministries and deputy ministers. Retaining too many inept ministers on high pay doesn’t set an example for cutting waste or tackling gross inefficiencies that hold us back as a nation.

There are more poor decisions in Tourism and Small Business Development, both sectors which should be high on the list for extremely competent and innovative ministers, given their importance in rescuing the economy. Lindiwe Sisulu moves from lacklustre performance in the essential Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation portfolio to Minister of Tourism. Sisulu has never impressed and in today’s economic climate, our tourism sector needs a highly energised and innovative leader, not a recycled under-performing minister. Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who failed miserably in Communications and Digital Technologies, now runs Small Business Development and does not appear to have strong credentials in the area of stimulating and  developing small business. In our opinion, both of these ministers should have been fired. 

Some light within the shambles

A bright light in this Cabinet shuffle is the (very late but expected) departure of Zweli Mkhize and his replacement as Minister of Health with Joe Phaahla.

Splitting the Ministry of Water and Sanitation away from Human Settlements makes sense, as these are huge departments, neither of which have delivered meaningful output for many years. We hope Senzo Mchunu is up to the enormous job at Water and Sanitation, a department which was raided by the state capture gang, for years ignored the Vaal sewage problem and is still the subject of an expanding SIU investigation.

The appointment of a replacement Deputy Minister in Minerals and Energy, Dr Nobuhle Nkabane, might provide a glimmer of light. These are two huge departments and combining them has been a disaster. The deputy minister might help to steer a renewed energy course.

More good news is the panel of experts appointed to review the lack of preparedness and inadequate response to the recent violence, and the appointment of Sydney Mufamadi as National Security Advisor. 

The country should celebrate seeing the back of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (with the ANC jaunt to Zimbabwe in an SADF plane still fresh in our minds), however we remain very concerned that Bheki Cele retains his position as Minister of Police. 

We believe the need for a Cabinet reshuffle that firmly addresses competence, efficiency and zero-tolerance for corruption and maladministration is long overdue.


A soundclip with comment from OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage is here.


Picture: Flickr/GovernmentZA