Thursday night’s reshuffle centred on the reorganisation and potential strengthening of state security, the further concentration of power in the Presidency of South Africa, and the “sorting out” of a set of existing Cabinet members who have been non-performers or people who have been using their portfolios for personal gain at least as much as for public service.
Given the centrality, and political and public order necessity, of the state security function, the change at the helm of the Ministry of Finance — from Tito Mboweni to Enoch Godongwana — was close to being overshadowed.
As the ANC’s head of economic transformation and former deputy minister of economic development (2010-2012; in 2012 he was accused of financial improbity — but this is not uncommon among surviving Cabinet members), Godongwana comes with some essential skills. It may be hoped that his appointment will bring greater immediacy and urgency to ANC government actions to sort out finances and bring in economic growth and job creation.
Equally almost eclipsed by the bigger event of the security clean-up is the promotion of the Deputy Minister of Health Joe Phaahla to Cabinet status, following the resignation of Dr Zweli Mkhize.
The moves to reorganise the security function cumulatively amounted to a major revisit of how security is handled at the level of the executive. The Ministry of State Security was “done away with”. Political responsibility for the State Security Agency was moved into the Presidency. Much of the responsibility at Cabinet level presumably will go to the newly appointed Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, until now National Assembly Chairperson of the portfolio committee on social development and to Zizi Kodwa, who as former deputy minister of state security now moves over into the Presidency. He is still tasked with state security.
Ramaphosa will also be strengthening his security oversight through the appointment of former Cabinet member Sydney Mufamadi as national security adviser. Mufamadi had led the process that produced the 2018 Report of the High-Level Review Panel on the State Security Agency. Mufamadi will fill the opening left by Charles Nqakula, who had already stepped down earlier this year.
Still on the security portfolio, Ramaphosa announced the appointment of a panel to investigate the state’s security response to the “orchestrated campaign of public violence, destruction and sabotage”, Ramaphosa’s latest description of the August turmoil. The panel, which will include Dr Sandy Africa and advocate Mojanku Gumbi (who was a central figure in the Mbeki presidency), will also be required to make recommendations on the future handling of state security in situations such as South Africa’s July 2021.
Former minister of state security Ayanda Dlodlo is still ensured of her ministerial portfolio, being “sentenced” to Public Service and Administration. Hitherto Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe It-is a-counter-revolution Mapisa-Nqakula, is out of Cabinet — and the new minister of defence will be Thandi Modise, former Speaker of the National Assembly and Umkhonto weSizwe veteran.
In a further, probably shrewd restructuring move, Ramaphosa also appears to have “dealt with” the aspirational minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Sisulu, who is campaigning for the ANC presidency, has been widely reported to be running her early crusade from ministerial offices. Sisulu was moved to Tourism, while her former portfolio of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation was split into two. Human Settlements now goes to Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Water and Sanitation to Senzo Mchunu. Tourism, along with Arts and Culture, and to an extent Public Service and Administration, are often seen as political relegation portfolios.
The Ramaphosa reshuffle of 5 August 2021 was probably one of the boldest moves that will be seen to emanate from the Ramaphosa presidency. It was forced by the circumstance of ANC Revolt 2021 and Covid-19, but was in many respects as significant as the Cabinet reconfigurations of 26 February 2018 and 29 May 2019 when Ramaphosa assumed presidential power and was affirmed through the 2019 election result.
If successful, and that can only be proven over time, the 2021 Cabinet initiative could mean even more for Ramaphosa’s hold on power than the preceding two. To have this effect, they would have to perform both in terms of economic stabilisation and recovery, and on the pre-emptive and preventive security fronts. DM