On Wednesday, the DA Leader in Parliament Lindiwe Mazibuko announced the party’s new shadow cabinet. The 'generational mix' that Julius Malema and Fikile Mbalula have been calling for? It doesn’t get much better than the roster of individuals Mazibuko put in her kitchen cabinet. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
With a new leader of the opposition in parliament, comes a new shadow cabinet for the Democratic Alliance. Lindiwe Mazibuko made the announcement on Wednesday morning (if you missed it, you were probably glued to your television set to see Judge Joop Labuschagne brush aside the application for a retrial by the Leigh Matthews murderer, Donovan Moodley).
The name ‘shadow cabinet’ is more grandiose concept than what it actually is. In Canada, it is called the Opposition Critics, for this is what this group of individuals really is: each member is assigned a ministry and must ‘shadow’ it. This entails being the party’s spokesman on that particular ministry, suggesting alternative policy to the prevailing one and passing along criticism.
The countries from where the idea comes from usually have the Westminster system of government, and much closer margins in Parliament. In South Africa, we have neither of those things. The ANC is a percentage or two shy of an overwhelming majority in a hybrid parliamentary system. It removes a possible suspense of possibly winning a possible snap election from the equation of choosing a shadow cabinet.
This situation has given Mazibuko an opportunity to focus on other priorities – she chose mixing up youth and experience.
“I also wanted to ensure that there was an appropriate ‘generational mix’. If there is one thing I have learned it is that the experience of veterans, mixed with the energy of youth, makes a formidable combination,” she said.
“Most importantly, I wanted to ensure that each and every member of the shadow cabinet is fit for purpose. Some shadow ministers are experts in policy and legislation; others have first-rate communication abilities; many are brilliant activists and community organisers. So I have tried, as far as possible, to give each shadow minister the best platform upon which to showcase their particular talents,” she said.
Shadow ministers like Tim Harris (finance) and Gareth Morgan (water and environmental affairs) are in their early 30s (remind you of anyone?), while the list also features veterans like Sej Motau. A surprising choice was Athol Trollip, who is the new shadow minister for rural development and land reform. Late last year, he lost the election for DA parliamentary leader against Mazibuko, whose old portfolio he swapped.
Lance Greyling, the shadow minister for energy, is from the Independent Democrats.
Ian Ollis, who used to occupy the labour portfolio, said that he wasn’t unprepared for his new responsibilities as transport shadow minister. “I was on the City of Johannesburg Section 79 Transportation Committee when I was a city councillor for a number of years,” Ollis said. “As ward councillor, I was on the Gautrain Environmental Committee that dealt with the oversight of the construction of the Rosebank Gautrain station. I also personally negotiated a settlement out of court in the case between the Dunkeld Village Association and the Gauteng Provincial Gautrain Department.”
The question of which shadow ministers will get prominence is largely a question of what the government does and what policies it adopts. The ministry of health will be one to watch as it begins to implement a gargantuan and enormously complicated National Health Insurance plan, as will public service and administration and governance and traditional affairs as the national government tries to contain the financial meltdown of provinces.
The following months will show how prepared and energetic this new ‘cabinet’ is. One thing, though, is pretty much certain: If you are member of the media, be prepared to check your inbox frequently. DM
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Photo: A view of the future? (REUTERS)
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