Shortly after he was re-elected, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said his cabinet would combine experience, energy and youth. At the top of this “youthful” cabinet is Panyaza Lesufi, who has been appointed as the new MEC of Finance and e-Government.
Lesufi, who had been lauded for his work as MEC of Education, replaces Barbara Creecy, who, according to Adriana Rendall, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) shadow MEC of Finance did a “good job”. At the core of this department is the Gauteng Infrastructure Financing Agency.
Rendall told Daily Maverick that the financial sustainability of local municipalities should be prioritised.
“We’ve seen municipalities failing. I would appreciate it if he (Lesufi) looked at those seriously, and how he can assist,” Rendall said.
The 2016/17 Auditor-General report revealed that 45% of municipalities in the province were in a vulnerable financial position. A year after this report, Emfuleni Municipality was placed under administration.
The e-Government component primarily focuses on ICT and innovation in the province. According to the final budget speech delivered by former Finance MEC Barbara Creecy, this department will receive R1.4-billion in 2019/20 to fund key projects.
The Gauteng government website describes Lesufi as someone who “has a deep interest in establishing new public institutions from scratch”.
During his acceptance speech on Wednesday 23 May, the premier said the departments of Community Safety, Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Health and Economic Development, and Agriculture and Environment are among those that need strong guidance in this term.
Replacing Lesufi as Education MEC is Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, who is not new to the provincial legislature. In 2009, Ralehoko resigned as MEC for Agriculture and Rural development after an irregularity surfaced involving the purchase of a vehicle. Ralehoko’s resignation letter said she had been “ill-advised” by some departmental officials. She is presently the deputy provincial secretary-general of the ANC in Gauteng.
Makhura singled out the Department of Education as having performed well in the previous five-year term. In early February, the department announced a programme to build 43 schools by the end of March. Education has been allocated the biggest chunk of the budget after Health. In the 2018/19 provincial budget Education was allocated R45.2-billion.
Dr Bandile Masuku replaces Dr Gwen Ramokgapa as MEC for Health. Masuku is a qualified obstetrician and gynaecologist who was a national spokesperson for the ANC Youth League in 2014. Gauteng’s Department of Health has been marred by countless scandals. Makhura acknowledged that it was “on its knees” despite being the department that received the biggest stake — R50-billion — in the provincial budget.
Shadow MEC for Health Jack Bloom said the department needed a health information system that worked.
“It starts with the people. There need to be enough human resources, discipline and efficiency. With the best people in place, quality services can almost be guaranteed,” Bloom said.
Faith Mazibuko returns to the provincial cabinet as Community Safety MEC after serving as the MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation for the past five years. Mazibuko’s final days in her previous department were overshadowed by her “combi courts” rant during which she was recorded threatening executive staff members.
The 2018/19 State of Urban Safety report in South Africa revealed that robbery was the most prevalent crime in greater Johannesburg. Moreover, the 2018/19 crime statistics indicate that Gauteng remains the crime hub of the country with about 478,659 serious crimes reported in the previous financial year. Whether Mazibuko’s personality matches her new position is questionable.
Lebohang Maile swaps his Economic Development MEC hat for that of Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).
Gauteng has a housing backlog of up to 600,000, while the department forfeited fiscal benefits in two consecutive years due to its failure to spend. Makhura’s response to the backlogs has been the Rapid Land Release Programme (RLRP). The RLRP tasks government with providing well-serviced land for people to use to build their own homes. There have been many critics of this programme, some citing that it might cause problems if not implemented diligently.
Speaking on his appointment, Kate Lorimer, DA shadow MEC for Human Settlements said:
“I am quite surprised that Maile is the MEC. I don’t believe Maile did a good job on local Economic Development, so I am not holding out much hope that he is going to be able to handle a department of the size of Human Settlements and Cogta.”
Lorimer said human settlements is a complicated portfolio because there is emotion attached to it and people are desperate for housing as some have waited for too long.
Makhura may have lived up to his promise of a youthful cabinet as two cabinet members are under the age of 40. The average age of the cabinet is 46.
Other MEC appointments include Jacob Mamabolo for Public Transport and Road Infrastructure, Tasneem Motara for Infrastructure Development and Property Management, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa for Economic Development, Agriculture and Environment, Mbali Hlophe for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation and Thuliswa Khawe for Social Development.
The MECs are to be sworn in on Thursday 30 May 2019 at Emoyeni Conference Centre in Parktown. DM
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