Ramaphosa to go for Cabinet reshuffle lite — the power lies in his super Presidency
President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to make only minor changes to his Cabinet despite a groundswell calling for better political leadership.
This graphic shows the Cabinet has two vacancies — the Departments of Transport and Public Service and Administration. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula will soon vacate Cabinet as his position as Secretary-General in ANC is a fulltime post.
Four new ANC MPs have been sworn in, suggesting there will be no fresh blood, and he is unlikely to use his authority to draft in two Cabinet ministers from outside Parliament.
The President could make the Cabinet changes at the weekend.
This is how the four new MPs can be used in a lightly reshaped Cabinet:
- Paul Mashatile is waiting for Deputy President David Mabuza to resign so he can get into the Union Buildings formally.
- Maropene Ramokgopa is an ANC deputy secretary-general and Ramaphosa’s international adviser. She could be a deputy minister of international relations or a tourism minister closely linked to international relations and home affairs. Most bets are that Ramaphosa will fire Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
- Parks Tau can be used in either of the vacancies as he is a seasoned politician who has served in national, provincial and local government, where he was one of the better mayors of Johannesburg.
Tau is a specialist in local government, which is falling apart despite Co-operative Government Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s district development model. This model, which has been painted as the panacea for the sphere, is costing the ANC support because it is where state failure is first made manifest.
Dlamini Zuma is likely to stay in Cabinet despite facing disciplinary action from the ANC for voting against the party line about the Phala Phala report commissioned by Parliament in October 2022. This is the ongoing investigation into monies stolen from Ramaphosa’s game farm and kept secret from the public until exposed by former spymaster Arthur Fraser.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “To complete SA Cabinet reshuffle, multiple political machineries must work nationwide – here’s how”
- Former KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala was demoted after his faction of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal was trounced by the Taliban faction of the party. So Ramaphosa owes him. Business Day has reported he could attend the public service and administration vacancy.
In December, at the Nasrec conference, a senior Ramaphosa ally said his win had emboldened him and that he would be “reviewing the strength and relevance of his Cabinet”.
This week, the same person told Daily Maverick, “Government performance is not only about Ministers.” He said programmes in the Presidency were still the key to solving the polycrises facing South Africa. “You have to take a holistic look rather than pinning everything on the Cabinet. People are hugely excited, but you have to ensure the stability of government.”
This means you shouldn’t hold your breath for sweeping changes to the Cabinet, although Ramaphosa could use the 36 deputy minister positions to make further changes to the executive.
The super Presidency
If you want to know where power lies and see the Cabinet Ramaphosa would choose to be free of the shackles of a party-led political system, then look at this super Presidency.
Since 2017, Ramaphosa has built a “Cabinet within a Cabinet” system. This “kitchen cabinet” is younger, technocratic and savvy, more global and pragmatic than the Cabinet that runs the country.
ANC politics determines who is in the formal structure, and its composition must pay homage to all the power blocs in the ANC: provinces, factions, leagues and various histories of the governing party.
The super Presidency runs vital arteries of government. The State Security Agency (the entire intelligence system) operates out of the Presidency under the authority of Mondli Gungubele, the Minister in the Presidency. Ramaphosa’s eight advisers served the roles of ministers in a high-functioning Cabinet. (Political adviser Bejani Chauke is out in the cold because of his proximity to the Phala Phala scandal, but the other advisers are still crucial.)
All essential government programmes and crisis responses are run out of the Presidency. The Energy Action Plan, a response to the current and worsening power crisis, is run by Rudi Dicks. In a briefing last week, Dicks said he called Cabinet ministers and other officials every day to check where processes to unblock new power projects were. The Vulindlela programme is a heralded team that frees growth hurdles that stand in the way of the Economic Recovery Action Plan.
The Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus plan is also in Ramaphosa’s wing in the Union Buildings. At 2.9 million funded work opportunities, it is one of the world’s biggest public works schemes.
- Kgosientsho Ramokgopa is the head of Infrastructure SA, and he is an influential figure;
- Trudi Makhaya (economics adviser and head of Invest SA);
- The outgoing Daniel Mminele and Crispian Olver (The Just Energy Transition Investment Programme and the Presidential Climate Change Commission). Mminele’s one-year contract recently came to an end.
- Sipho Nkosi is the red-tape cutter in chief;
- A State-Owned Enterprise Council in the Presidency is managing a study to assess the viability of putting all state shares and companies into a single sovereign vehicle built on an East Asian development model.
The Presidency is a government within a government. While its intentions may be good, and the people who run it are young and talented with stripes in business, trade unions and government, it has become too big with too many structures and meetings to be effective.
Take Nkosi’s job. When he started, his brief was simple: identifying where bureaucratic red tape was holding up growth. Then a Red Tape Reduction Council cropped up, the opposite of the intuitive step to cut bureaucracy.
Ramaphosa’s style is throwing structures at problems to negotiate solutions painstakingly, instead of simply executing.
It’s a method trusted by the President, and even with a power crisis now four times worse than it was in 2021 and growth estimates revised down to 0.1% by the SA Reserve Bank, the love affair with structures to tackle our problems will continue. Expect a slight reshuffle and a more significant Presidency. DM