South Africa


Reshuffle ‘nanny Cabinet’, fire non-performing ministers and stop ‘mega-Presidency’, Scopa chairperson tells Ramaphosa

Reshuffle ‘nanny Cabinet’, fire non-performing ministers and stop ‘mega-Presidency’, Scopa chairperson tells Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his annual State of the Nation Address. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

An electricity minister in the Presidency duplicates the responsibilities of ministers in a ‘bloated mega-Presidency’, according to IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the chairperson of Parliament’s spending watchdog, Scopa. His comments came in the Sona parliamentary debate in which ANC speakers hailed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership.

“Every time your ministers don’t perform, instead of firing them you protect them by taking things into the Presidency. Be decisive, Mr President. Fire them! Don’t have a nanny Cabinet… If they are not working, fire them.” 

Looking at President Cyril Ramaphosa during Day Two of the Sona Parliamentary debate on Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) chairperson, IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa, didn’t mince his words. 

“It seems to us you have no confidence in your own ministers,” he said before setting out how most, if not all functions currently located in the Presidency should actually be in departments.

The Presidential Employment Stimulus should be in the National Youth Development Agency and the labour ministry. The Presidential Climate Commission should be in Environmental Affairs. Mineral Resources and Energy should run the National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom) alongside the Just Energy Transition, while infrastructure should be in Public Works and the presidential red tape reduction unit at Small Business Development. 

Instead, all are in the Presidency, said Hlengwa, who at Scopa must deal with financial fudging at best and, at worst, abuse of authority, money and procurement. 

“You are overstretching yourself and your ministers are sitting at home doing nothing,” said Hlengwa.  

His comments came in the wake of the 9 February State of the National Address (Sona) in which Ramaphosa stepped off the traditional Sona outline of the government’s programme for the year. 

“We are not presenting new plans, nor are we outlining here the full programme of government,” the President had said, raising four issues: rolling blackouts, joblessness, poverty, and crime and corruption. 

And Sona 2023 seemed more about what the Ramaphosa Presidency does, rather than his administration. Three ministers were cited — not by name — as “minister of finance”, “minister of public enterprises” and “minister of cooperative government”.  

On the rolling blackouts, Ramaphosa announced the forthcoming appointment of an electricity minister in his Presidency, and a National State of Disaster to accelerate the plans he and Necom had established in the Presidency already in July 2022.

Ramaphosa spoke about the Presidential Climate Commission and the Just Energy Transition and its funding that all are in the Presidency, as is the joint initiative with National Treasury on structural reforms, Operation Vulindlela, and the red tape reduction unit which, he said, “has been working with various departments to make it easier to do business”.  

He spoke of investment in South Africa — R367-billion pledged at the most recent pledging meet — which is also a function located in the Presidency, right from the start in 2018 when Ramaphosa said he wanted to raise $100-billion over the next five years.

Ramaphosa presented a list of various bridges to be built — a Sona tradition — but without any reference to specific departments. Infrastructure also is within his Presidency. As commander-in-chief, the President thanked the SANDF for its bridge-building prowess.

On unemployment, Ramaphosa cited achievements of the Presidential Employment Stimulus — including 1.2 million job opportunities — which is in his Presidency. Nothing on the employment and labour ministry or department, or public works programmes like the Public Works Employment Programme that dates back to the Thabo Mbeki administration.

And so the ministers and deputies who spoke in the Sona debate took their lead from their boss to hail his leadership. 

After some ideological non-reductionist hair-splitting over the yet-to-be-appointed electricity minister in the Presidency, aka the electricity availability factor project manager, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said: “If we derail from the identified critical path, we will derail the whole project. That is how serious the President takes this crisis.” 

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A concrete announcement

Mantashe brought one concrete announcement to the Sona debate. His  department will issue a request for proposals for 513MW of battery storage by the end of February, 3,000MW of gas-to-power by 31 March, and in Bid Window 7 of up to 5,000MW, even if subject to grid capacity availability. Such grid transmission limitations meant 3,200MW of the previous bid window could not actually be connected. 

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel picked up on the government at work under Ramaphosa’s leadership, reiterating green hydrogen and electric car manufacturing alongside various investments in vehicle plants, at several of which Ramaphosa cut the ribbon in the past year. 

“This government is building greater cohesion… through masterplans,” said Patel in reference to sugar, clothing, poultry and other sectors in an echo of Ramaphosa’s Sona words about how masterplans are “supporting the revival of the relevant sectors, the injection of investment by the private sector and the creation of new jobs and livelihoods”. 

Deputy International Relations Minister Alvin Botes used his speaking time to praise Ramaphosa’s leadership at the African Union Peace and Security Council and the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. 

“Mr President, because of your leadership, we exported in 2021 more to Africa (R385-billion) than to the EU (R355-billion),” said Botes on Tuesday. 

The baton was handed over on Wednesday. 

“We believe under your leadership, comrade President, we will attend to the burning issues of this country,” said National Council of Provinces Chief Whip Seiso Mohai. 

“Mr President, you are a man at work,” said Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, speaking about the presidential words on dealing with the title deeds backlog. 

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi homed in on Ramaphosa’s Sona speech reference to the 10,000 graduates who will digitise population register documents. 

“The first cohort (of 2,000) has completed its training in Benoni… They will be employed for three years,” said the minister of the “security milestone”. 

However, that digitisation project was announced in Sona 2022. And similarly dated was Wednesday’s reference by Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni to thousands of Connect SA WiFi spots across South Africa. 

It popped up as far back as March 2022 in her public statements. 

The revised model connects 44,000 government institutions and over 33,000 community WiFi hotspots through a partnership of government and private sector including small and medium enterprise participation.”  

Ramaphosa also got tribute for Covid-19 measures like vaccines. “Under your leadership, President, we have administered just under 49 million doses,” said Health Minister Joe Phaahla, adding that 51.1% of the adult population had been reached. 

Ironically, that’s an admission of falling short. In September 2021, MPs were told the target was to vaccinate 70% of adults, or 28 million persons by 31 March 2022 in what was already a downward revision from the initial target of 67% of South Africa’s population, or 41 million persons, by the end of 2021.

Wednesday was a scrappy Day Two of the Sona parliamentary debate. Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu put her finger on the mix of governance and electioneering that was fired from the speaker’s podium.  

“We will be coming back with a plan — like other ministers will come back with a plan — and the plan is to march towards 2024,” she said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Lothar Böttcher says:

    The plan is to cling to the tattered threads of the ANC’s own making…
    Let’s hope come 2024 that we, the citizens, take charge and make the public servants understand they are there to work for this beautiful country and not their myopic kleptocratic clubs!

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Nanni President, so Nanny cabinet. Nobody anywhere takes this circus seriously anymore. Thank you for illustrating why, Marianne. It must be excruciating to watch.

  • quinton says:

    Ramaphosa promised radical reform in regards to routing out corruption and non performing ministers. Other than the usual lip service jestures I am yet to see anything inspiring. Same old lame duck.

  • William Kelly says:

    A plan? They’ll come back with a plan? Bwaa haa haaa!

  • Peter Slingsby says:

    Ramafailure again …

  • Heike Maria Pollock says:

    So if I interpret this correctly, then Ms. Zulu’s plan is to somehow make it through 2023 and come back with a plan in 2024. That’s what this government calls a decisive strategy! They should all receive further benefits on top of their massive salary packages for sheer entertainment value – Trevor Noah can just copy/paste statements like the above.

  • Jason Stramrood says:

    So, basically just making more room at the trough

  • virginia crawford says:

    Reshuffle? Fire the lot! Can anyone name one minister who has done a good job? I can’t.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The second day of the SONA debate was also important in that we had all the parties speaking and from different angles. But most importantly, were the closing debate by the parties of which Hlengwa’s intervention was the IFP’s closing argument on SONA. We had the EFF closing arguments and views that we were not aware of until yesterday. We for instance were never clear on their stance on the Turkish ships and the IPPs and Eskom. That we got. The DA also made closing arguments that included their views ao what happened on the opening day that is very different from the ANC and EFF. She also gave a very good precise summary of the DA views on the ANC speakers and the final position of the DA. The ANC had Lamola after Gwarube of DA to give closing arguments but he spectacularly failed to put forth the final position of the ANC on the SONA in terms of clarifying the rationale behind the state of disaster and the Minister of Electricity. He instead went to attack the DA and EFF in particular than giving clarity like Mantashe did though he left a number of issues which one thought would be done later. The issue is not between the government and opposition but the important people are the South African public who are at the receiving end of the black outs. This escaped Lamola in his rebuttal of EFF and DA. Issues that Manashe left hanging remain unanswered. For instance the issue of the relationship between Eskom Board and Executives with the Minister of Electricity and DPE.

  • Bruce Anderson says:

    Quote Patel “This government is building greater cohesion… through masterplans,” said Patel in reference to sugar, clothing, poultry and other sectors.” What a load of rubbish. Most of these industries are almost destroyed by the lack of power and service non-delivery and the crippling costs of trying to keep operations going, and the reason lies in the lack of capability in the ANC ministerial leadership and the blind adherence to policies that have proved time and time again as unworkable. F for fail, not even 30%. Clear the lot out.

  • Philip Armstrong says:

    There just are no words to even describe this pathetic President, equally pathetic Cabinet and simply diabolical ANC political party. There is no semblance of perspective or remote understanding of the consequences of their decisions and inaction. And, the people of South Africa, there is hardly any recognition that they even exist or matter – and that, is the problem.

  • Greg de Bruyn says:

    For me, the nagging question is why CR wants this job, why he faces up to his own antagonistic (when it’s not being sycophantic) party, takes the venom of the RET and EFF, the righteous grandstanding of the opposition across all the spectrum, and gamefully plods on, promising better things to come. He’s paid his dues, made his fortune and shown he doesn’t have the stomach for a fight, yet he keeps taking the blows. He should follow Tito’s example and cook for entertainment. It would be nice to suggest that he hands over the reins to young blood, better and more in touch, but alas!

  • Tracy Smith says:

    Taking things into the presidency is one thing under an incompetent president but quite another if the next person who fills the seat has really bad intentions, although really, one wonders how much worse this can get?

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