In his own political Groundhog Day, minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Sicelo Shiceka has again announced he is well and wants to go back to work. But his work might not be ready for him, yet. CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.
The sickly Sicelo Shiceka has once again stuck one toe out the front door to determine if the political family, headed by President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet, is ready to take him back. He is certainly ready, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs told the Daily Maverick on Wednesday.
He’s already contacted the president’s office about this and asked for a meeting. “I will discuss this with the president when he is available,” he said.
Except Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj knew nothing about this and referred it to Jimmy Manyi as government spokesman, who, when he emerged from Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, said by SMS that it was a matter for the president and Maharaj should really speak on it. “This is NOT a cabinet issue where I speak,” he SMS’ed.
Shiceka might have wanted members of the executive to ruminate on the matter when he told SAfm on Monday that he’s “ready to roll and rumble”.
Maybe it’s a matter of having cried “wolf” once too often, because the story died almost immediately, like those tiny snowflakes that tried to fall in Johannesburg the other day. It made one or two radio bulletins, and then, nothing.
About four weeks ago it was the same story when he said he’s ready to return and the response from the presidency was: “Oh no, you’re not.”
Zuma’s office said he wanted to wait for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on allegations that Shiceka abused government funds by, among other things, flying to Switzerland to visit a girlfriend in prison.
The probe came after Parliament’s ethics committee in April, with uncharacteristic haste and eagerness, requested Madonsela investigate the reports – the first time the committee had taken such a step against a serving minister.
So, Shiceka’s sick leave (seven months and counting for a disease he’s not talking about) is actually a rather convenient excuse to keep him out of the way, as ministers are rarely, if ever, suspended to allow an investigation to happen.
Madonsela’s spokeswoman Kgalelo Masibi on Wednesday said the report should be ready for Zuma by the end of August. “We have one more interview to do,” she said.
There has been speculation that Zuma would use Shiceka’s sacking (if Madonsela’s report is damning) for a mini cabinet reshuffle, which would be handy for strengthening his hand ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in less than 17 months’ time.
This wouldn’t come one moment too soon for police minister Nathi Mthethwa who has been acting in the post. Being a busy man himself, he must be getting rather tired of moonlighting, as many of his cops tend to do. DM
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