South Africa

Newsflash: Cabinet reshuffle announced, move appears to strengthen Zuma’s hand

By Marianne Merten 17 October 2017

South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Blade Nzimande, who recently emerged as a strong critic of President Jacob Zuma’s administration, has lost his Cabinet post. In a Cabinet reshuffle announced by the Presidency on Tuesday morning – speculation has been rife for weeks now – six changes have been made that seem to strengthen the President’s hand by moving those regarded as close to him to key portfolios. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

Heading the energy portfolio now is David Mahlobo, the former State Security Minister who has long been regarded as very close to President Jacob Zuma, often popping up on various state and ANC party platforms alongside the President. He replaces Mmamoloko Kubayi, the ANC MP and committee chair who was appointed as minister just six months ago in the controversial March midnight Cabinet reshuffle.

Both Kubayi and former Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo have courted controversy in their respective portfolios: In energy, over the slow pace of making firm public announcements on a nuclear build programme, and at the SABC, where it is understood the Parliament-selected board of the public broadcaster raised presidential concerns. For three weeks there was no SABC board, although the Presidency on Tuesday also announced it was now appointed, with Zuma choosing Bongumusa Makhatini as board chairperson and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, an ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member, as his deputy.

Dlodlo has been moved to Home Affairs, previously headed by Hlengiwe Mkhize, who is now in charge of Higher Education, replacing Nzimande. Buti Manamela moves from the Presidency to be Deputy Higher Education Minister.

In a curious development the new State Security Minister is Bongani Bongo, an ANC MP on the justice committee who has expressed strong support for attitudes of the Zuma grouping in the governing party’s factional battles. Bongo was spotted in the parliamentary precinct earlier on Tuesday, leaving his committee meeting, and indicating that he was under the weather.

The announcement of the Cabinet reshuffle comes after weeks of speculation. It comes a week before Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s maiden Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), in a move that could have investors and economists on the edge of their seats as the reshuffle could be considered another sign of governance and policy instability.

In a brief Presidency statement, Zuma said: “After careful consideration, I have decided to make the following changes to the National Executive…. I thank the former members of the National Executive for good service in their previous portfolios. I wish the members who are assuming new portfolios all the best in their new responsibilities.”

The SACP is expected to issue a statement with regards to Nzimande later on Tuesday. DM

Photo: Then Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande, briefing media on the issues affecting higher education and on a meeting he had with higher education stakeholders, 26 January 2016. (Photo: GCIS)

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