Cabinet reshuffle: Commitment to accountability key to new cabinet's success
Yesterday's cabinet reshuffle was an important test of President Jacob Zuma's promise that his would be an administration of action and improved delivery. The extent to which the President was able to make tough decisions and resist the influence of various competing political agendas was also an indicator of his confidence in his political position in the tripartite alliance.
The President made a number of positive changes, and these must be applauded. However, problematic appointments, and the failure of President Zuma to remove chronically under-performing ministers, threatens to dilute the impact of this encouraging show of commitment to improved accountability and performance.
The DA welcomes the following decisions:
Dismissal of Minister of Communication, Siphiwe Nyanda
Nyanda's ministerial tenure was marred by poor performance, attempts to exceed the limits of his ministerial mandate and centralise power under his authority, and allegations of corruption. It will require bold leadership from his successor, outgoing Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Roy Padayachie, if the fortunes of the ailing SABC and Sentech are to be reversed. Padayachie appears to be a much more competent choice than Nyanda and brings to the position both experience (he served as deputy communications minister from 2004 to 2009) and a reputation as a hard working member of the executive who earned the approval of the communications industry for his efforts to bring about price liberalization in the telecommunications sector.
Dismissal of Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya
Minister Mayende-Sibiya was one of the poorest performing ministers in the Zuma cabinet. As a minister, she displayed an absolute disregard for transparency and accountability and her weak leadership was exemplified by her tendency to intervene in an ad hoc, uncoordinated manner (she allegedly fired managers who questioned her weak leadership and dismissed a task team mandated to get her department into shape). Her ministry had no clear programme of action and delivered very little in its first year. If President Zuma was to convey any kind of commitment to accountability with the reshuffle, the removal of Mayende-Sibiya was imperative.
Dismissal of Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana
Under Mdladlana, the Labour Ministry and the institutions and entities reporting to it have fallen into a state of serious disrepair. Notable examples of questionable performance include Mdladlana's introduction of deeply problematic draft legislation earlier this year, which sought to ban labour broking, and his inability to turn around the Compensation Fund. It appears to have been political concerns, rather than delivery, that dominated Mdladlana's time in office.
The strategic importance of the Labour Ministry in helping to tackle South Africa's high unemployment rate requires a competent minister who is prepared to confront the serious challenges facing this department. The new labour minister, Mildred Oliphant, is a relative unknown to this portfolio. How Mdladlana's successor deals with difficult issues such as the disciplinary hearing of Labour Director General, Jimmy Manyi, the new poorly drafted pieces of labour legislation, the ailing Compensation Fund and the department's expensive and poorly implemented IT system, will be an important indicator of her mettle.
The DA is concerned about the following changes:
Appointment of Lulu Xingwana as Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
Lulu Xingwana has a record of poor ministerial performance. Her tenure as Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs saw South Africa move from a net exporter to a net importer of food and she presided over the Land Bank during the period of its collapse. As Minister of Arts and Culture, Xingwana has failed to effectively oversee the entities and state-owned theatres reporting to her, has shown a disdain for transparency and has yet to deliver on promises made concerning the introduction of key pieces of legislation. Even more concerning is that in the past year Xingwana has come under fire on more than one occasion for making homophobic and bigoted comments.
This is deeply concerning conduct for a member of the country's executive- especially given that the mandate of Xingwana's former department flows directly from Section 16 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression. Her new appointment cannot be justified on the grounds of fitness for purpose, and is an illustration of the political agenda that has clearly influenced a number of President Zuma's decisions about his cabinet.
Dismissal of Barbara Hogan as Minister of Public Entities and appointment of Malusi Gigaba
It is difficult to see how President Zuma could in any way justify the dismissal of Hogan, who was widely regarded as one of the most competent cabinet ministers, as in keeping with his stated intention to use the reshuffle as a way to improve service delivery.
As Minister, Hogan not only took a number of brave decisions - such as shutting down the R9.2 billion Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) - but also displayed a firm commitment to transparency, accountability and prudent use of state resources. Under her leadership, her department received a clean audit for 2009/10 and recorded no wasteful, fruitless and irregular expenditure.
Unfortunately, it may well have been Hogan's outspoken stance on such issues that invoked the ire of influential members of her party, and led to her downfall. Her successor, former Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, has lurched from one controversy to the next and lacks Hogan's impressive track record, and is clearly a political appointee.
Appointment of Gwen Ramokgopa as Deputy Health Minister
Ramokgopa, who is the former mayor of Tshwane, will begin her position amid serious concerns about her fitness for purpose thanks to accusations that she suspended a municipal official to prevent him from questioning the awarding of lucrative tenders.
South Africa's public health sector has been crippled by the impact of cadre deployment, mismanagement and corruption. Appointing an official who has been accused of the very conduct that has caused the disintegration of the public health system does not bode well for its regeneration. That the President would select such a person to help head such a critical portfolio makes a powerful statement about the influence of political considerations in the reshuffle and the sincerity of the President Zuma's commitment to delivering quality basic services for all.
Dismissal of Geoff Doidge as Minister of Public Works
While Geoff Doidge's performance as head of the Public Works portfolio has been mixed, he has fared much better than many of his cabinet colleagues. He has spoken out against corruption and wasteful expenditure of public funds and took decisive action in response to allegations that National Police commissioner, Bheki Cele, had signed an unnecessary property rental deal worth R500m.
His replacement, former Speaker of the National Assembly Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, will be inheriting a number of tough challenges - including the department's poor audit performance, the completion of the government's long overdue national asset and property register and filling critical vacancies in the Public Works department.
The politically-motivated appointments of new cabinet members such as the ANC's Gauteng leader Paul Mashatile and the promotion of both Malusi Gigaba and Fikile Mbalula, both of whom are former Presidents of the ANC Youth League, to full ministerial positions, is an illustration of how President Zuma's decisions affecting the performance of the executive are still undermined by the need to appease key factional groups in the tripartite alliance.
The DA also notes the large number of new deputy ministers who have been appointed. While, in some cases, the creation of these new positions may be justified, for instance in the critical Higher Education portfolio, there are concerns that others have been created to bring the President's supporters into the executive which is both an abuse of power and a misuse of state funds.
Unfortunately, a number of opportunities were missed to root out non-performing ministers, such as Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sicelo Shiceka, and Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande. Minister Shiceka seems held hostage by the idea that he is a political appointee rather than a public servant, has faced numerous allegations of impropriety, displayed complete disregard for accountability, sought to centralise power at national government level and failed to make any discernable headway in improving the effectiveness of local government.
Minister Nzimande has displayed similarly poor performance and has used his authoritarian leanings to try and exert political influence over the country's universities. The continued inclusion of such ministers dilutes the President's message that the reshuffle represented a commitment to improving service delivery and performance.
These missed opportunities are compounded by underperforming ministers who retained their posts, and also the concerning number of problematic MPs who have been elevated to the executive. These include the new Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, and the new Deputy Minister of Energy, Barbara Thompson, who were both implicated in the Travelgate scandal.
There are serious challenges facing the reshuffled Zuma cabinet- particularly with regards to tackling unemployment and improving service delivery. The extent to which the President is able to pursue a path which is based on a commitment to accountability and performance, rather than one which uses state positions and resources to reward political loyalty, will be the determining factor of his administration's success.
Statement issued by Athol Trollip, MP, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader, November 1 2010
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