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Here they are, Mr President — the criteria for appointing a competent Cabinet


Mavuso Msimang is a former senior member of the African National Congress who served on the Military High Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He returned to South Africa in 1993 and served as Executive Director of SA Tourism, CEO of SANParks and CEO of the State Information Technology Agency. He currently chairs Corruption Watch and serves on various boards, including WWF South Africa. He was one of the original founders of African Parks.

The road to South Africa’s economic recovery inevitably begins with a drastic shakeup of the political command structure, the Cabinet. Ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle, President Cyril Ramaphosa must find the opportunity in the current crisis.

South Africa is already in a State of Disaster. Not tutored in matters disastrous, I have no idea how far this is from what is called a failed state, given other persistent negative indicators. Never mind. 

A decade-plus of misgovernance has unleashed upon the citizenry a plethora of crises, sufficiently well-known not to bear repeating here. Suffice it to highlight three of these crises, because of their pervasive immediacy and the potential threat they pose to the sociopolitical stability of the country. 

Of the three, the energy crisis is literally beating the daylights out of everyone, bar the fortunate few who can afford alternative power sources. Massive unemployment has wreaked havoc on the lives of tens of millions and has left fewer and fewer working-class families unaffected. Third, criminality has spiralled out of control and is certainly beyond the capability of the police to handle. 

There is hope, though, for our beleaguered nation. It is difficult to think of a better-placed person than President Cyril Ramaphosa to not only halt, but also start reversing our perilous drift towards the abyss. He ought to thank his ancestors for providing him with the opportunity of executing what would be a Herculean feat of taking South Africa to normalcy. 

This has come in the shape of a mandatory Cabinet reshuffle that has remained unattended for too long. The road to the country’s economic recovery inevitably begins with a drastic shakeup of the political command structure, the Cabinet. 

For starters, two gaping Cabinet vacancies must be filled. Even as talk of the professionalisation of the public service continues to grab headlines, for close to a year the Department of Public Service and Administration has been without a minister. Virtually devoid of political leadership also is the Department of Transport. Road users have become familiar with yawning potholes that leave some of our roads resembling detonated minefields.

Then there is Prasa, where debilitating corruption has left the institution in ruins although it continues to receive palliative attention in the organisation’s intensive care unit that parades as a head office. Its incumbent minister has been called to duty elsewhere in the role of CEO for the ANC. A more thankless job would be hard to find in the organisation’s current circumstances. 

A student of Albert Einstein, our President would know about the genius’s profound observation, namely: “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”.

Even closer to the President’s own political leadership perch, Winston Churchill — not my favourite human being — advised his contemporaries “never [to] let a good crisis go to waste”.

Sad to say, a major source of what is becoming the country’s permanent state of crisis has not just been the absence of decisive action against thieves and incompetents operating in the public sector, but their tolerance in high office. The antidote must certainly be their removal from echelons of power.

A good place to start

A comprehensive Cabinet shake-up, where the President wields unfettered authority to appoint — and disappoint — would no doubt be a good place to start. That’s the opportunity, failure to grab which would neuter him and ultimately relegate him to yesterday’s man, a has-been who never was. However, having checked with the amadlozi, I discount that scenario.   

It’s all systems go now. The Zondo Commission on State Capture mainly, but also other investigations, have delivered magnificently on the task the President gave them to probe corruption and recommend appropriate redress. To facilitate the President’s task, the highest council of the ANC also endorsed the Zondo report.

Conscious of what may have dented the otherwise strong public support he has otherwise enjoyed since he took office five years ago, the President is all set to go. In the coming period, he will finish crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s as he prepares to announce his highly anticipated Cabinet reshuffle.   

Fellow South Africans, we will be addressed: 

  1. I have decided to invite only the most competent eligible women and men to serve in my Cabinet. My search for such talent has taken me within and beyond the confines of the National Executive Committee. I tapped into the pool in Parliament and even peeped across political party lines. Without treating the Republic of South Africa as a federal state, I will endeavour to ensure regional representation in Cabinet.
  2. Appointments will respect the ANC’s policy on gender parity and inclusivity with respect to nationalities represented in the South African population.
  3. I have taken on board the repeated calls made by members of the public, requesting that I make sure that the size of my Cabinet takes into account the nation’s state of economic distress, that it is circumscribed, geared to ensure delivery of nothing but essential services to the people. Accordingly, I have decided to lead a slim and trim Cabinet.
  4. Within the limits of my remit, I will invite to this scaled-down Cabinet a member who is ofay with matters of interest to civil society and another who will present a business perspective in Cabinet deliberations.
  5. With the exception of the Department of International Relations, all deputy-minister posts are abolished with immediate effect. Incumbent deputy ministers will be entitled to benefits as provided for in their contracts and terms of service. Any support the ministers may require will be more effectively supported by increasing the number of directors-general, after careful analyses have been carried out.
  6. The present ministerial handbook will be drastically revised to reflect the distressed situation in the country. The replacement handbook will take effect on 1 June 2023.
  7. I will not invite to Cabinet any person who has been referred by the Zondo Commission to criminal justice institutions for prosecution or further investigation until they have been cleared of any alleged wrongdoing. Neither will I invite people who have shown flagrant disregard for accepted norms of behaviour by public officers, or have in one way or another acted in an ill-disciplined fashion.
  8. I am fully appreciative of and extremely grateful for the support I received from members who voted for me during the contest for the presidency of the ANC during its 55th Conference held in Nasrec. In this regard, I don’t consider myself beholden to any individual or group of them for my appointment. Therefore, any suggestion that a member of the ANC would be entitled to a Cabinet post on this basis is ill-founded and mischievous.

I thank you. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Josie Rowe-Setz says:

    Yes please

  • Alan Keen says:

    What delightfully wishful thinking. We must live in hope, but act according to reality.

  • Margaret Jensen says:

    This sounds like a dream scenario. South Africa needs this caliber of leadership desperately.

  • Bruce Surmon says:

    As Audrey Hepburn sang in “My Fair Lady” ….. “Wouldn’t it be loverly?”
    Seriously though, wouldn’t it be lovely if the President heeded these guidelines?

  • Patrick Devine says:

    This excludes vast swaths of crooked cadre comrades.

    It won’t happen Mr Msimang.

    Will you put your money where your mouth is, or will you continue providing your good name to the continued rape and pillage of the fiscus by your criminal colleagues?

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    dream on

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Honourable sentiments and we all wish it would happen! Unfortunately Mavuso, you are a total misfit. I mean with reference to the your party. Your faith in the president is pie in the sky. No backbone, no morals, no integrity and can’t tell right from wrong. His overriding mission is unity of the odious ANC and staying in power at the expense of the country. I think just about most of the citizens have lost faith and trust in him and the pathetic poor excuse of your party/government. The insult and betrayal has gone too far. NB – you obviously forgot to mention that it is not only the fortunate few who have have alternative sources of power BUT your very own government ministers, who have generators and diesel provided free of charge at taxpayers’ expense!! These mostly corpulent and useless bunch are shielded and molly-coddled from the stark reality of life for the average citizen. Body guards, private schooling, private hospitals, blue light brigades etc. Get real Mavuso!

  • Glyn Silberman says:

    Don’t hold your breath!

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Is this a satirical article? Absolutely nothing at all that Ramaphosa has done in 5 years even hints that he’s capable of such bold and imaginative thinking: rather than slimming down cabinet, he’s bloating it with a parallel set of ministers in his own office, none of whom has yet made a jot of difference in their alleged fields of expertise!

    By what stretch of Msimang’s incredibly elastic imagination does Cyril’s actual behaviour – appointing Zuma acolytes, proven failures, ideological luddites and other flotsam and jetsam to cabinet – suggest that he will make more than the most cosmetic of changes in order to keep internal party politics in balance? Msimang has a habit of occasionally popping up and penning a whimsical piece, but if he was actually serious about change for the better in South Africa, he would raise his voice a lot louder than a couple of scribblings in DM.

  • nickha says:

    Not in our wildest dreams! The President does not have the courage to do anything so necessary. He has already been neutered and relegated to yesterday’s man, a has-been who never was. What a disappointment after much expectation and patience.

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    Mr Msimang, it needs an honest and capable person to follow your guidelines. Our President is neither. He is married to the soulless ANC, he is compromised in every possible way, his hands are as bloody and dirty as all the other smutty paws in his cabinet, he is no more innocent of corruption and theft than any of his cadres and best you stop believing that Phala- Phala was his first rodeo – he has had a special place of great privilege at the trough for a long, long time. He was there with Zuma for many years and we thought he would bring change only because we were too desperate to see him for what he was.
    Sorry sir, but you will have to wake up and face reality.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    R2 billion is the estimated cost of re-building our Parliamentary precinct, but is there any point in even doing this if we retain, and do not similarly sweep clean and re-build and replace the human capital?

    Without wholesale changes thereto, the R2 billion is just two more billions tossed down the drain.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Do I note a kind of longing for a Kais Saied of Tunisia person in this article ? Rather strange ?

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