Ramaphosa strikes blows on opposition with cabinet picks

Thursday May 30 2019

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (L)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (L) listens to Director General in the Presidency Dr Cassius Lubisi (R) after announcing a new national executive at the Union Buildings on May 29, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. Analysts termed the cabinet progressive with youth and women taking 17 of the 28 positions. PHOTO | PHIL MAGAKOE | AFP 

PETER DUBE
By PETER DUBE
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South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa looked across the political, gender and generational divide in naming a lean cabinet that analysts describe as a break from the past.
In appointing his new national executive, sources said the president wanted to get a fair mix of interests in the country with one eye on austerity, unity and the fight against graft that had appeared shaky under his predecessor.

The new cabinet will cost taxpayers about $1.4 million (R21 million) less in salaries alone after President Ramaphosa slashed nine positions, eight ministerial and the other of a a deputy minister. Previously, cabinet had 36 ministries and now stands on 28. According to Africa Check, cabinet ministers each receive an annual salary of $163 000 (R2.4 million), while deputy ministers get $135 000 (R1.98 million).
The most surprising appointment was that of Patricia de Lille as Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, an expanded docket from that in the previous cabinet.

It is also a controversial pick because Ms De Lille, popularly known as Aunt Pat, is leader of GOOD party, a splinter from the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
“Patricia de Lille is now part of the ANC’s (the ruling African National Congress) infrastructure,” her former leader, Mmusi Maimane of the DA mocked her appointment.

With the surprise inclusion came notable snubs of Bathabile Dlamini, Jeff Radebe, Siyabonga Cwele, and Derek Hanekom. Ms Dlamini is a known Jacob Zuma ally and many expected President Ramaphosa to keep her in the cabinet to ‘nurse’ factional tensions. The veteran Radebe had served in all previous South African administrations including Nelson Mandela's. However, he was caught up in a diplomatic row in April when his wife, Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe, was banned by Botswana from entering the country visa-free. She is also the younger sister to President Ramaphosa's wife Tshepe Motsepe.

Motsepe-Radebe has faced allegations she interfered in the recent leadership election of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in a bid to remove President Mokgweetsi Masisi. 

President Ramaphosa had to send then Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to Gaborone to diffuse the tensions.

The exit of veterans like Radebe paved the way for youthful leaders like Njabulo Nzuza, the secretary general of the ANC youth league, Ronald Lamola and Zizi Kodwa, who served as ANC spokesperson during Mr Zuma’s tenure.
“To have youthful people like Ronald Lamola may be a positive posture,” said political analyst, Dr Somadoda Fikeni, of the lawyer picked to head the justice ministry.

The youth have increasingly been disgruntled over marginalisation in business and politics and the appointments are seen as appeasements to the voter segment which showed apathy in the May 8 elections.

It is also politically strategic as it counters a key grievance that opposition Economic Freedom Fighters movement leader Julius Malema has capitalised on with unrivalled success.

But the youth want more than tokenism with ANC Youth League national spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize saying they deserved a fifth of the cabinet.

“This is what we agreed to at the national elective conference in 2017. We are happy that there has been an increase but we were looking for more young people in Cabinet,” Mr Mkhise said.

Mr Ramaphosa, however, pledged in the cabinet appointments that this was just the beginning.

"This is part of a generational transition in which we are creating a pipeline of leaders to take our country further into the future,” President Ramaphosa said.

But it is in the appointment of women that Mr Ramaphosa has won accolades at home, in Africa and beyond for showing progressive leadership.

The names Bavelile Hlongwa, Barbara Creecy, Boitumelo Moloi, Thembi Siweya, Rosemary Capa, Nomafu Cawe, Nomalungelo Gina and Dikeledi Magadzi may not ring a bell in discourse outside their immediate localities and business spheres.

Together with six others, however, they will form half of the country's cabinet putting South Africa among the top democracies in the world to have equal representation in the top state decision making organ.

It is the first time in South Africa's history that the cabinet is gender neutral.

Dr Fikeni believes President Ramaphosa had to play the balancing act with a decent mixture in terms of gender and youthfulness in naming his cabinet.
“It is a decent mixture as it has some competencies and the shifting of ministers,” Dr Fikeni said.
To create a lean cabinet President Ramaphosa merged the trade and industry ministry with that of economic development; higher education and training with science and technology; and environmental affairs with forestry and fisheries.

Human settlements was also combined with water and sanitation and, sports and recreation with arts and culture.

Land reform and rural development is now one docket as is energy and mineral resources.

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