South Africa

Cabinet Reshuffle: Parliament’s turn to spring into action – most new MPs have strange career highlights

By Marianne Merten 27 February 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle on Monday night not only created two vacancies among parliamentary committee chairpersons, while bringing to Parliament three new ANC MPs who previous had run-ins with the law, it also raises constitutional questions as to whether the president jumped the gun. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

Key members of the new Cabinet that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced shortly after 22:00 following two delays – Deputy President David “DD” Mabuza, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and Co-operative Governance Minister Zweli Mkhize – are not MPs.

Section 91(3) of the Constitution states that the president “must select the Deputy President from among the members of the National Assembly”, “may select any number of ministers from among the members of the Assembly”, and “may select no more than two ministers from outside the Assembly”.

However, the swearing-in as MPs of Nene, Mabuza and Mkhize only takes place on Tuesday at Parliament. Strictly speaking the three were not members of the National Assembly as required by the Constitution when their Cabinet appointments were announced, according to Ramaphosa, “conscious of the need to balance continuity and stability with the need for renewal, economic recovery and accelerated transformation”.

But by ditching Nkosinathi Nhleko, formerly heading public works, Ramaphosa has freed up one of the two constitutionally permitted ministerial posts for those who are not MPs, for ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe. The other such position continues to be held by Nomvula Mokonyane, who moves to the communications portfolio from water and sanitation.

That Mantashe would not be sworn in as an MP emerged from the statement issued by the ANC Office of the Chief Whip shortly after Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Nhleko is also on the list of those to be sworn in as ANC MPs, alongside former Northern Cape Co-operative Governance MEC Alvin Botes and former KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, and before that provincial legislature Speaker, Peggy Nkonyeni.

Botes in October 2015 was acquitted of fraud and corruption charges in the long-running Trifecta multimillion-rand fraud and corruption trial, while then Northern Cape ANC chairperson John Block was found guilty, according to the Mail & Guardian. Block and Botes, then social development MEC, were accused of receiving kickbacks between 2006 and 2010 for influencing Northern Cape departments to rent office at inflated rentals in favour of Trifecta.

Peggy Nkonyeni, who resigned as MEC in June 2016, twice faced fraud and corruption charges that were later withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) during her term as KwaZulu-Natal legislature Speaker. According to the Sowetan, in 2009 charges related to the purchase of a cancer screening machine at inflated prices were withdrawn and charges were again withdrawn against her and others in August 2012 in the Intaka, or so-called “Three Amigos”, case involving the acquisition of water purification at inflated prices.

Nkonyeni fills the vacancy following the recent death of tourism committee chairperson Beatrice Ngcobo, while Botes replaces Patrick Mabilo, who resigned in October 2017.

The KwaZulu-Natal representation in Parliament has been significantly boosted. Like Nkonyeni, Nhleko comes to Parliament as MP on the KwaZulu-Natal list after the resignation of Makhosi Khoza. So does Mkhize, who is filling the vacancy arising from the death of Trevor Bonhomme. And according to the statement by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, Nene would fill the “vacancy left by Cde Senzo Mchunu, who declined his nomination due to his full-time deployment as ANC national organiser from the KZN to national list”.

Meanwhile, Mabuza is filling the parliamentary seat left empty by Dudu Manana, who is redeployed to the Mpumalanga provincial legislature. The ANC also welcomes a new MP from Mpumalanga, former Education MEC Reginah Mhaule, whose 62-year-old domestic worker in January 2017 laid a fraud charge over her salary payments against the MEC.

Tuesday will see the swearing-in of all MPs as well as new ministers and deputy ministers, many of whom are already MPs. This includes Derek Hanekom, who has served on the finance committee and now returns to head tourism, Mondli Gungubele, the outspoken ANC MP on the public enterprises State Capture inquiry, former Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele, now announced as Deputy Finance Minister, and Chana Pilane-Majake, the ANC MP who serves on the justice committee and now is named as Deputy Public Services and Administration Minister.

Former public enterprises committee chairperson Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba has been announced as the State Security Minister after less than five months as committee chairperson. And the parliamentary public service and administration committee is also without a chairperson after Cassel Mathale, the former Limpopo premier, who was named Small Business Deputy Minister.

These vacancies among committee chairpersons would require a reshuffle within the ANC parliamentary benches. A further vacancy has arisen following the election of Nokuzola Tolashe as mayor of Lukhanji on Monday.

The spot on the ANC parliamentary benches that arose when Ramaphosa resigned, as constitutionally required, as ANC MP on being elected South Africa’s president earlier this month, remains vacant. DM

Photo: Speaker Baleka Mbete (GCIS)

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