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Heads must roll: It is unfathomable that President Ramaphosa has not axed Ayanda Dlodlo and Bheki Cele

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John Steenhuisen is the leader of the Democratic Alliance.

In any other functioning democracy, our ministers of state security and police would have had to clear out their desks. It is unfathomable that President Cyril Ramaphosa has not sat both Ayanda Dlodlo and Bheki Cele down for this talk yet.

More than 200 lives lost, 100 malls set alight, 1,400 ATMs damaged, 40,000 businesses affected and at least 150,000 jobs compromised in the chaos of last week’s violence and looting. Some put the cost to KwaZulu-Natal’s GDP at R20-billion, and nationally at about R50-billion.

Even in a robust, growing economy that’s an unaffordable price tag. For ours it’s a mortal blow, not only in terms of the rand value but also the damage done to our already battered investor confidence. But here’s the real kicker: much of that damage, theft and loss of life could have been prevented with the most basic crime and security intelligence. But such intelligence was nowhere to be found, because the people tasked with this are simply way out of their depth.

Our mantra at the DA, over the past two decades, has been the idea of fixing South Africa by building a capable state. Along with the other three foundational pillars for a functioning country – the rule of law, non-racialism and the power of the market economy: a state staffed by qualified, fit-for-purpose individuals who aren’t beholden to parties, factions and patronage networks is absolutely crucial if we want to turn our country around. We have not stopped beating that drum, and we will continue to do so until it has been achieved.

There are two aspects to building such a capable state. One is the staffing of the state, and this is something we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of words on over the years, explaining in great detail why the ANC’s official policy of cadre deployment is the very antithesis of a capable state, and that our country will continue to slide towards a failed state until this practice is abandoned in favour of merit-based and apolitical appointments.

But appointing the right people to crucial positions in the machinery of the state is not enough. If you want it to function properly you need to apply the second aspect, too: the principle of accountability. Because if you don’t – or can’t – hold people responsible for the performance of their duties, it doesn’t matter how qualified they were when you picked them.

What we’ve seen this past week from our government’s security cluster – particularly those tasked with gathering intelligence and acting swiftly on it – was an absolute failure to do the very basics of their jobs. In any other functioning democracy our ministers of state security and police would have had to clear out their desks, and it is unfathomable that President Cyril Ramaphosa has not sat both Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and Minister Bheki Cele down for this talk yet.

Now we see the usual buck-passing that happens in the aftermath, with Dlodlo claiming she passed on alerts and intelligence reports warning of possible unrest and criminality to law enforcement days before the riots and looting started. We’ve even heard how these warnings were discussed in ANC NEC meetings prior to the attacks. But throwing fellow Cabinet ministers under the bus is not good enough. The buck stops with her and Cele, and both should immediately vacate their positions.

Dlodlo and Cele must be fired. There is no way their continued presence in this Cabinet can be justified. And following this, Ramaphosa needs to take a broom to the rest of his Cabinet, too. How many of the State Capture looters still hold positions on the executive? And what is the point of all those deputy ministers?

There has been plenty of talk in recent days of a possible imminent Cabinet reshuffle, and many commentators seem to think this will do the trick. Or perhaps they think this is the only card Ramaphosa can still play. But the truth is this government requires far more than a mere shuffling of the existing pieces around the board. We’ve seen that movie plenty of times under all previous presidents, where disgraced ministers are simply redeployed away from their failures. And finally, when Cabinet has no more hiding places, they are shuffled off to plush ambassadorial posts. This endless recycling of mediocrity and failure helps no one.

What has become clear this past week is that the President has no one in his inner circle telling him anything of value. His entire security cluster is made up of unqualified and often severely compromised individuals who have no business protecting our sovereign state from attacks. The inexplicable contradiction from the defence minister on whether these riots were an attempted insurrection or not is further proof of this, not to mention the fact that the corruption-accused Zizi Kodwa still has a job in the cluster.

Despite his obvious shortcomings, Ramaphosa is still commander-in-chief of our defence force. This means he needs to be handed security intelligence immediately, and then act on this intelligence without delay. If he had done so – and if his security advisers were able to feed him credible information – our country would have avoided much of the terrible scenes that played out in KZN and Gauteng.

He even conceded the failure of his government on live TV when he said, “we must admit that we did not have the capabilities and the plans in place, as this happened, to respond swiftly and decisively”. How can such an admission not have repercussions? How can those tasked with gathering intelligence and acting on intelligence to keep us all safe remain in their jobs when they failed so spectacularly?

A capable state isn’t something you can just wish into existence, as Ramaphosa seems keen to do. You can’t simply speak of your desire to build this kind of capacity, but then carry on doing what your party has always done by shoving every possible unsuitable but politically loyal candidate into crucial positions. You have to match your words with actions.

Dlodlo and Cele must be fired. There is no way their continued presence in this Cabinet can be justified. And following this, Ramaphosa needs to take a broom to the rest of his Cabinet, too. How many of the State Capture looters still hold positions on the executive? And what is the point of all those deputy ministers?

Building a capable state from the ruins of this ANC-captured state is no small task. Every democratic institution and state-owned entity has been infected, not to mention the civil service and scores of local governments. But the best place for Ramaphosa to start is his ineffectual Cabinet. And not with a reshuffle, but a proper clean-out. DM

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All Comments 37

    • 100% … “The Peter Principle” (no offence Peter!) …. promotion of people to a position of inefficincy”. Sadly, nepotism and tribal influences mar judgement too, exacerbation the speed of the decay.

      • But the “Peter Principle” says the incompetent will rise to their level of personal incompetence — the ministers have all risen way beyond their levels of incompetence.
        They’d probably be incompetent at using a broom ….

  • A difficult one for CR. Firing ministers, Cele and Dlodlo in particular, while desparately necessary, could lead to a new “coalition of the wounded”. Perhaps, to reference LBJ, it’s simply preferable right now to have them “inside the tent”.

    • That is a cop-out! To have them “inside the tent” is an easy decision. SA is way beyond “easy decisions”, we need some hard-ass action and a complete change of top dogs. And then we need Rottweilers not Chihuahuas. Only the DA can do it.

  • It is rather naive to use the same rhetoric over and over – even if it is morally correct – as it would simply return the same results. I am so desperate for innovative thinking and more action than just another addition of a thousand or so words to a hopeless case.
    The ‘business-as-usual’ approach leads to nothing. There have been so many excellent suggestions by commentators and critics during the past few days that will seemingly also coming to nothing.

    • Gerhard, your suggestion says nothing. Repeating “morally correct” rhetoric is morally correct. Removing Cabinet Ministers is not “business-as-usual”. What we need is a new party in government. So instead of attaching a seriously correct article, vote the ANC out.

    • Ediodaat, what on earth has this to do with “Zille”?
      This is a competent article by John Steenhuisen about a very serious matter.

      • Exactly like JS has had reason to ask from many a sacking, I am venting my dissatisfaction with Helen Zille in the party. Many of US have long left because of her and you must have seen that in the recent elections. While Zille is not an underperforming minister I nevertheless see her as a thorn in the DA which I would have liked to support the DA save for her meddling. So, fix the DA first, the ANC are busy destroying themselves.

        • The DA where it governs has shown to be competent and better, so much so, the Western Cape is like a different county.
          While we may dislike strong-willed and headed leaders in the DA, it’s must not deter voting for the party, as not, will simply allow the ANC to carry on destroying our country.
          The choice is ours, and clear.

  • Hehehehe…. Mr Steenhuisen: I’m sure you know the story about the pot and the kettle living in glass houses. Just read it one more time.

    • An incomprehensible comment. What the DA is saying is common sense but South Africans seem obsessed with personalities rather than a party’s policies. Politics is not a beauty contest. Vote for a party whose policies can lead SA out of its current mess.

      • Spot on, Paddy. It has taken DM far too long to publish a pro-DA article, maybe they have woken up to the fact that there is no other alternative to the vile ANC.

  • The ‘Ministers’ of Police, State Security, Defence, Health and Justice have all been found to be lacking. That’s 5 critical positions filled by, at best, unsuitable people. How many more Ministers are corrupt or out of their depth? When will the spineless ANC and it’s puppet leader ever make a decision? A tender for the supply of toilet paper will take 5 years to adjudicate and then be rejected because the product is white.

  • My 2cents worth: we all know the problem, we lament again and again. There is urgency in turning off the taps of tax money which is being looted: join the tax payers union,
    so that the taxpayers develop a voice. In our country the majority of voters are not the taxpayers – that is where the problem starts.

  • If you understand the internal ANC politics you will know that Ramaphosa cannot fire Cele. He is a key ally in KZN and if Cyril want any hope of a 2nd term, he needs him on the ground in KZN.
    Ayanda Dlodlo is another case though. She is part of the RET faction and he needs to show decisive leadership and axe her ASAP.

  • With the saying”cometh the moment, cometh the man,” in our minds the time has certainly come when the misconceived BEE ideology of upliftment of the previously disadvantaged gets to be buried once and for all. We need surgeons in the operating theater, not stretcher carriers, we need qualified engineers in industry, not bucket carriers, we need real captains of commerce, not clowns from the school of BEE entitlement.
    This is, such an opportunity for the president, to jettison any and all who have any scent of Zuma, in their pedigrees, the incompetent and those drawing large salaries for simply attending parliament. Appoint the competent no nonsense replacements irrespective of political colour, race or creed who have the credentials to get the good ship South Africa going again. In doing so he will enhance his standings and whilst he may lose the odd cadre with historic grudges they will soon dim in the light of economic growth, earned trust and most of all growing employment.

  • I couldn’t agree more.

    Now if the DA could actually get a coherent campaign going which tells voters, simply & clearly, why to vote for them we might have a chance. Shout about WHY South Africans should vote for YOU!

    Everyone is looking for someone to vote for. Make it happen.

      • I have read it and agree with most of it. My point is that the policy messages is clearly not getting to people otherwise they would have more votes. So they need to campaign better to get their message across to the SA people.

        I’m not arguing with you here. But clearly the message isn’t getting to the people if nobody is voting DA.

  • Lots more screeching from Steenhuisen as expected, but no viable solutions offered.
    If CR fired Cele and Dlodlo who would he replace them with at this critical time? If he does a huge cabinet reshuffle what would the new cabinet look like? Who do you suggest he appoint? Names would be helpful instead of wishful thinking. Don’t forget that if he does anything too radical he might be ‘recalled’ and then we would have Mabuza or worse as President.
    The factions in the ANC are tearing this country apart. CR is fighting a huge war inside his party. For the sake of the county I think it is time the DA show support for good decisions made by the government wherever possible – (there have been a few including the deal for the Pfizer Vaccine to be made in Cape Town). Endless whining and criticising doesn’t move us forward.

    • The DA is the opposition, why would they commend the president for making irrelevant decisions. Steenhuizen is making lots of good suggestions in his article. It’s time the ANC started listening to the DA, not the other way around.

      • Chris, if the DA were smart they’d realise one-person-one-vote does not work with the opposition calling the shots. If they were smart, they’d know that the next ANC president will line up behind CR17 and wait til the DA had him removed (ha!)
        So perhaps a smart move would be for the DA to look around the ANC and see who’s the next President-in-waiting. Hint. It won’t be Steenhuizen. And then you’d need to ask if THAT is the person you want in place of Cyril. Or not. From my vantage point, there’s plenty reason to support Cyril. The next guy may be Ace.

  • The ANC are the clouds; the DA needs to be the rain. The ANC has blown hot air for 27 years and systematically allowed the country to fall into ruin while making meaningless promises – which Cyril is doing once again – that will come to naught. The DA has the opportunity to “seize the day” and offer concrete, grounded suggestions that everyone can understand and that can actually be implemented. JS above does not do that either. For example: we, the DA, will do the following…we will appointment ministers and other government employees based on their skills and integrity; we will create employment by immediately establishing alternative energy factories that will offer employment for thousands and help solve our energy crisis; we will remove the obstacles to small business entrepreneurs; we will provide factories to manufacture prefab housing – employment and housing overnight for thousand; we will immediately implement a BIG to alleviate food insecurity: we will fix the broken health care system by making it easy for foreign Dr’s and nurses to enter SA and become registered – and set about repairing the broken hospitals, etc. Practical. Feasible. Understandable, in simple language. NO pie in the sky – no clouds – but bring down the RAIN.

    • Have a look around the ANC, man, if not Cyril, would you take Ace as president? Be careful that you don’t get exactly what you ask for. Face it, the next president is not going to come from the DA. So who’d you have if not CR17?
      That is the very question you should ask.

    • Some good, practical, suggestions there, John.

      I think that the DA does intend to do most of those things. But they need to actually get the message across. I understand that they are the Opposition. And the job of the Opposition is often to show up the failures of Government.

      But unless they want to stay the Opposition for ever, they have to articulate their plans to be an actual Government. They need to explain to potential voters, in words they can easily understand, not only why they’d make a better Government but how they’d do things to achieve “a better life for all”.

      Not platitudes. Not promises. Real positive actions to achieve a carefully thought out plan. Step by step.

  • When last did you see a Member of the ANC Cabinet sacked ? and who was that ??? Just won’t happen and we are left high and dry with an incapable state to defend ourselves , our staff ,our communities and homes.
    The Ministers walk around with at least 4 bodyguards – why worry if you don’t do your job – your person is safe and your job won’t be threatened

  • I beg to differ. Your DA mantra has been:
    let’s trash the ANC by all means available to get into power.
    Be honest please.

    If DA MPs spent less time with theatrics and more time working alongside the government; picked your battles with more discernment; and were engaged in more closed door discussions you’d get a lot more from disgruntled ANC voters. But here’s a tip: you won’t do it with the Coetzee/Leon/Zille school of “Fight Back”. Neither will you make any impact by shouting louder and before anyone else. The politics of Africa is about saving face.

    The DA has been almost as good as the EFF in shouting from a soap-box. Admit it, they shook things up in a way the DA could never do. Yes, it’s now very predictable and boring, and after the VBS scandal we’ve all seen their hypocrisy. But they stole your thunder in a big way.

    In reality, you’ll probably shed more voters to the FF+ in the next national elections. You’ll have regional power in the metros with the local government elections because you have some good people on the ground.

    Nationally, you’ll make more impact behind the scenes than by screaming – or twittering – louder. But you’ve probably reached your threshold. Which is why a different strategy would serve you better. You should realise that any growth nationally can only come from disgruntled ANC voters. Grand-standing won’t bring us in, which is why in the last national poll 30% of registered “no shows” were lost to the DA.