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Cabinet reshuffle leaves SA just one presidential scandal away from a chaotic Mashatile-EFF collaboration


Songezo Zibi is the national leader of Rise Mzansi.

On Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa finally announced his much-anticipated reshuffle of his Cabinet. It may go down in history as the last exclusively ANC-chosen Cabinet before the country descends into the possible chaos and anarchy of a national coalition government, depending on its composition.

Notwithstanding, in his statement Ramaphosa optimistically said that he had begun the task of overhauling the Cabinet structure ahead of another presumed ANC government after the 2024 elections. The changes he announced demonstrated how much depth and skill the party has lost over the years, to the point that it can no longer produce anyone to restore optimism during the country’s deepest crisis since democracy.

For perspective, consider that the ANC faces its most difficult elections next year, with all publicly available polling showing that it will dip below 50% for the first time. Under normal circumstances you would expect a party in such a precarious position to bring out its best and brightest to take it through the final stretch so it can win back the confidence of South Africans. I have no doubt that this was the intention, but it simply has nothing and no one to call up.

Instead, the ANC leadership moved around some decidedly questionable characters such as Zizi Kodwa and David Mahlobo, who in a normal society should have been consulting their criminal defence lawyers for past indiscretions. Instead, they remain in Cabinet while failed premier Sihle Zikalala gets elevated to a minister. It’s dire all round.

Second, in terms of ANC tradition, the national office bearer the President consults most closely when such decisions must be taken is the party’s secretary-general. In this case, it is former minister of transport Fikile Mbalula. To avoid being personal, I will simply ask you to consider that at some point Kgalema Motlanthe held that same position – and the two are not in the same league, to put it mildly. This is the person whose counsel Ramaphosa would have sought, and the results speak for themselves.

Third, we see a deepening of the tendency to create a ministry for every problem the ANC government cannot solve. We now have a minister of electricity who, apparently, will put an end to load shedding, somehow. The eternally optimistic must be happy that the core problem has been found, and absence of a ministry to oversee a crisis the ANC government cannot solve, such as crime, or the violent killing of women and children, or unemployment and poverty. The list is long.

Read in Daily Maverick:Here they are — the long-awaited changes to President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet

But there is something more profound about the excitement generated by an event like this, and that is how the elites and pundits continue to be duped by the ANC’s tendency to individualise failure so that it cannot be corporately held accountable. All the ministers still report to the same tainted, uninspiring and dithering president. I am not certain how his own character is supposed to change just because he has moved a few chairs around and got rid of the people who irritated him the most, such as Lindiwe Sisulu.

A tipping point

The country is at a critical tipping point. Paul Mashatile is now one scandal and political mistake (by Ramaphosa) away from ascending to the Presidency. If that comes to pass, two things will happen.

The ANC will, according to numerous polls, dip far below 40% as Ramaphosa remains its electoral trump card given the parlous state of the opposition’s leading personalities. Then, Ramaphosa’s fall, and the ANC’s precipitous decline will cause it to need the EFF whose leadership remains closely connected with the Gauteng leadership of the ANC, of which Mashatile is the undisputed captain.

Several weeks ago, Al Jama-ah’s leader let it slip on eNCA that the party, the Patriotic Alliance, the EFF and the ANC have been quietly working together to regain control of Gauteng metros now, and the province after next year’s elections. Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi has previously lamented that the ANC let Julius Malema go through expulsion.

This is a possibility that worries many, including the national elite class that has so far accepted the ANC’s leadership even as it declined. Not only are they deeply frustrated with Ramaphosa, but they are also even more worried that a national coalition government may be as chaotic as the circus enveloping the Gauteng metros currently.

Moving past and beyond the ANC

That there will be a coalition government next year is now a near-certainty. What we do not know for certain is its composition. If the ANC dips below 40%, there will be a significant dislocation of the national consensus that has, despite the ANC’s decline, held for the past 25 years.

ANC ministers who previously could be relied upon to provide leadership to various sectors of society are now out of Cabinet and generally outside public life. This is a task none of the opposition parties has shown any inclination to take up, also believing that stakeholders will simply gravitate towards them if they happen to form a new government next year.

It will not be so simple. Governing is not just about statutory power but also voluntary subscription to the legitimacy of the political leadership. The constant collapse and infantile behaviour that has become so common in metro leadership squabbles is the sort of thing that will almost certainly ensure that there are no grown-ups in the room to guide the country at a time of very deep crisis.

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Much more than whether the individual ministers can carry their respective portfolios, this Cabinet reshuffle demonstrated that there may no longer be a centre that holds the country together. Yet, retaining a strong centre to act as a glue that binds sometimes intensely opposing interests is critical if the country is to successfully navigate its most difficult period since 1994.

While many continue to justifiably criticise Ramaphosa for dithering, it is the elites who control powerful stakeholder blocks who may later lament not recognising this moment for what it is, the point at which it became clear that the country is on its own. Things are falling apart, and the centre cannot hold.

Mashatile Ramaphosa

Newly appointed deputy president Paul Mashatile and President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s 55th national conference in Johannesburg on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

These worrying scenarios notwithstanding, I remain convinced it is now possible more than ever before to achieve a national consensus that sees the ANC as a mere part of it, rather than its centre. That is because an increasing number of stakeholders now realise that if they do not move at the same pace or faster than the rest of the country is moving past the ANC, they may find themselves shut out while the future of the country is being decided after the 2024 elections.

Contrary to popular belief, it is the rest of us, not the ANC, who have to make the choice to chart a pathway to an eventually prosperous future that is no longer dependent on the ANC’s leadership. That is because for the better part of a decade, the ANC within and outside government has not provided that leadership in any event.

In the coming weeks and months, Rise Mzansi will set out in some detail the path we should follow to avoid a chaotic transition, retain a stable broad consensus and still drive a national programme that prevents chaos and brings much-needed reforms while accepting the reality of a coalition government.

That, not a haphazard and often-delayed reshuffle, is the conversation we should have. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    I absolutely agree with Songezo! The unfortunate reality is that it is simply easier & far less work for the ANC to partner with the EFF than to fix itself (which is an impossible task) The only hope that SA has is a more credible coalition alternative & I can’t help but feel that for such a caolition to succeed it needs to be ‘spear-headed’ by a person who is not party affiliated who is able to stand above, navigate & adjudicate individual participant party interests

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    A coalition leader of the like who? Want the job, Songezo? Imtiaz? Others? Who would be bold enough to step forward and give it their best shot to clean up after the ANC?

  • Patterson Alan John says:

    Buckets of s..t will be dropped on the monster fan!
    Nothing and no-one will be able to stop the chaos brewing in anticipation of the alliances being planned. Strange bedfellows will come together to feed at the troughs of Provincial and National Government.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The standby plan a few years ago for if NDZ took the presidency was leaving SA. It is time to update that for if the governing coalition is ANC + EFF and the other RET stooges. It will be the end of the rainbow nation and this pot is filled with something very different than gold.

  • Gregory Heale says:

    Doesn’t the country desperately need a party (or coalition) to stand up for the economic powerhouse of the world – a free market economy. A party who clearly says its the private sector that drives the economy and the governments role is to support and enable business to thrive. The government gets some 30% of all business profits and a huge % of every citizens earnings and expenditures. It’s a no-brainer that govt should be doing EVERTHING it can to make business and wage earners more successful.
    And yet no party is unequivocally standing up for business and the free market.
    All seem to be competing for the socialist vote instead of defending capitalism and the power of the free market.
    We’ve tried pandering to socialism, trade unions and listened to the SACP voices all baying for wealth redistribution instead of wealth creation. Look at where we are. We can all see it hasn’t worked.
    We don’t have to reinvent anything – we just desperately need a strong party to stand up for the private sector, free markets and recognize the role of business to produce wealth and govts role to enable it to do so.
    Somebody stand up and be counted.
    We’ll have a 90% turnout at the polls in 2024

    • Paul Van Uytrecht says:

      So would you do away with trade unions? You may not know this, but Germany has had in place, since shortly after the 2WW, a system which grants unions participation in the determination of overall policy of all corporations over a certain size. We don’t think of Germany as being a socialist or failed state.
      Free market economies are largely discredited. The notional free market economy only exists where there are high levels of competition (exactly the opposite of trends for some time). The idea of trickle down wealth has also largely been discredited.

  • Hari Seldon says:

    Great article and thought leadership…

  • Hari Seldon says:

    This is from a news report on 5 Feb: “🚨| A massive change is happening in SA! The DA is now within only 10% of the ANC.

    Internal ANC polling shows the party has dropped below 40% as DA support continues to surge.

    ANC 37%
    DA 27%
    EFF 10%
    IFP 6%
    ASA 4%
    FF+ 2%

    It seems Action SA really need to ramp up to 10% and DA to 30% to bring IFP and FF+ into a coalition and avert disaster

  • Kelsey Boyce says:

    CR needs to hang in there. As annoyed as we get with him this is the only hope. Then the DA needs to come to the party and form a coalition with the ANC. Rather a Ramaphosa and Steenhuisen presidency than a Mashatile and Malema one.

  • Alan Salmon says:

    Well written and accurate – hard to see a way out of this mess. I am not convinced that Rise Mzansi has the influence to really change the downward trajectory we are on

  • Sam van Coller says:

    The main opposition parties plus Zibi and Maimane need to start talking to each other now about how they are going to work together to go over 50 percent. There are only 18 months left. South Africa needs a coming together and not more division. If the above come together with an agreed vision and list of priorities for turning the country around, they will raise the considerable funds needed to convince the electorate to support them. A win is possible if the above agree to work together now and not wait until after the election to squabble over a coalition. South Africans will respond very positively to a coming together. Waiting for a messy set of negotiations after the event will only switch us all off even more.

  • Richard Baker says:

    Good comments from GOM, Greg and Sam and Johan is quite correct about the outcome should the ANC and EFF form a coalition supported by some minor players. We can bid all hope goodbye.
    Time is short and Songezo/Rise please move fast to crystallise your plan and how it can be used to form a new grouping which all can relate to and support-incorporating the thoughts of Greg and Sam.
    John Steenhuisen please continue the good work the DA is doing but be realistic enough to accept you’re not going to break through the critical ceiling the party has imposed on itself and join forces with the Rise Campaign along with the other wise players mentioned.
    Opposition is too fragmented at present and compromise by all is a small price to pay to save this beautiful nation and its people.
    DM-please be open-minded and support where merited and constructively critical where deserved and not sniping from the sidelines. We’re in the rapids before the falls-will we survive or smash to pieces?

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Great article. There is no way a new, or tiny, political party can grow constructively before the elections. An ANC/EFF coalition is a brain dead option. I don’t see ANC voters wanting to be pushed around by the EFF, because “pushed around” is what the EFF WILL DO to the ANC. That leaves only one option if one wants/needs a government that will run the country with any chance of success. That option is an ANC (somewhere around 40%) and DA (somewhere around 25%, hopefully 30%) coalition.

    I am sure that Rise Mzansi will support an ANC/DA coalition. It might even include a third party. IFP? Sugar? But not hordes of tiny parties that have a record of selling their votes for silver.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Read the DA manifesto. Go to their web site. Listen to what the DA says. It is 100% free enterprise. THINK!

  • Glyn Morgan says:


  • John Smythe says:

    This is exactly why those who can afford it are streaming out of the country in their hoards. Almost every week have a friend or acquaintance leaving for a better future for themselves and their children. And these are people of all colours and creeds. They aren’t going to hang around to see what happens.

    • Paul Sillifant says:

      The DA must not join the ANC and business should not be assisting the ANC out of its problems. The ANC will not listen to anybody as seen with their plan regarding national health. They will continue with their socialist ways.

      I suggest every person reads Countdown to Socialism by Anthea Jeffery to see the disastrous path we are on.

  • Paul Van Uytrecht says:

    I am amazed at how many are still beating the capitalism drum as a cure-all. The ANC is not socialist. It is ineffective and corrupt, but very much capitalist orientated. Even our dear Madiba was captured by the idea that neo-liberal economic values would somehow uplift the poor. The EFF is growing exactly because it is filling the socialist gap left unaddressed by the ANC. The EFF, though sits on the dangerous boundary of communism and planned economies, which we know will not work, especially given the corruption culture in ZA.
    We nevertheless have a huge ticking time bomb that is the poor majority of the country. I have argued for at least 10 years that it is time for another CODESA-type intervention to see what common ground might be found in an attempt to rescue the country and enable it to progress.
    Socialism should not be understood as a dirty word – at its heart, it simply recognizes that we all have a duty of care that extends beyond our own narrow selfish interests. Capitalism unchecked is a monster; capitalism and socialism can coexist and help nations to thrive.
    We are rapidly running out of time.

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