Cyril's Black Thursday

Andrew Donaldson says our President's new cabinet is full of old rubbish



BLACK Friday, and everyone’s on a crazed shopping jag. It’s like Game of Thrones, except more violent. Those who survive the maiming and slaughter are able to buy discounted sneakers and flatscreen TVs and take to social media to boast about how much tom they’ve saved.

The smart money, though, gets in the day before. True, there were no bargains then, but the chances of leaving the store with eyes ungouged and bones unbroken are greatly improved.

Of course, avoiding the melee is no guarantee against being sold horrendous rubbish. Take Cyril Ramaphosa, for example. The president went shopping for bits of a new cabinet on Thursday, and returned with some shabby tat that should have been remaindered years ago.

In came Siyabonga Cwele as the new minister of Home Affairs. 

Charitably described in one bulletin as a “party elder” (read “long past sell-by date”), Cwele was shifted in from Telecommunications & Postal Services, where he really didn’t have much to do apart from watch the place slowly collapse under the weight of sheer indolence.

Before that Cwele was the minister of Intelligence Services which, after widespread complaints of misrepresentation to the advertising standards people, was duly renamed State Security. 

Famously, as boss of all our spooks and spies, Cwele was unaware that his wife, Sheryl, was a cocaine trafficker. 

This, understandably, prompted calls for his resignation; if he didn’t know about his spouse’s freelance work, what hope then for intelligence-gathering? Instead, Cwele got a divorce and the last we heard of Sheryl, she was trying to get her prison sentence commuted to correctional supervision.

Which brings us to Nomvula Mokonyane, who replaces the late Edna Molwena as the minister of Environmental Affairs. 

Mokonyane was the former minister of Communications, a post she took up in March this year. But it was as minister of Water Affairs & Sanitation, her job before that, that she managed to land herself in the smelly.

Firstly, there were the lengthy delays to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project due to maladministration and meddling as Mokonyane sought to address “lack of transformation” with a bit of cronyism.

In July 2016, City Press reported that one company, LTE Consulting, has been awarded contracts worth R5-billion in a single year, all dealing with water and sanitation. In May and June that year, the newspaper said, LTE had also donated some R3.5-million to the ANC.

LTE stood to make billions once they joined the Highlands project. Little wonder, then, that their executives reportedly put the heavy schmooze on project leaders, hoping for a few queue-jumping shortcuts to the trough. 

When told by officials that, just like everybody else, the company had to bid for tenders, LTE boss Thulani Majola allegedly responded that he was not interested in bidding, and would approach Mokonyane directly. As a result, the bids for a number of tenders from other companies were rejected by her department.

City Press had also detailed a number of hiring and firing practices undertaken by Mokonyane and her department, allegedly in a bid to get “favourable” people involved with the project. This included the removal of officials who had denied LTE tender opportunities.

Mokonyane has denied any wrongdoing.

She found herself once more in the dwang when, against the wishes of the treasury, she merged the Umgeni and Mhlathuze water boards in September 2016 and appointed then president Jacob Zuma’s special friend and SAA chair, Dudu “The Dodo” Myeni to oversee the merger.

Now that she’s at Environmental Affairs, there is concern Mokonyane will not do much to conserve and improve our natural resources. In other words, we fear for the bunnies, we really do, here at the Mahogany Ridge.

The one glimmer of hope in Ramaphosa’s shopping basket is Stella Ndabini-Abrahams, the former deputy Telecommunications & Postal Services minister who is now to head up the new, awkward-sounding department of Communications and Telecommunications (a merger of the former departments of Communications and Telecommunications & Postal Services.)

Ndabini-Abrahams is young, keen as mustard, and terribly polite to colleagues. Perhaps too polite. 

In the buzz ahead of Ramaphosa’s cabinet reshuffle announcement, EFF leader and alleged VBS Mutual Bank looter Julius Malema appeared to indicate she was due a promotion. He tweeted: “Is Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams here on Twitter guys? Looking for her, please help.”

Ndabeni-Abrahams tweeted back: “Yes, president am here.”

Hmmm. An innocent faux pas, or are relations between the EFF and the ruling party more cosier than previously imagined?

Ramaphosa came in for some flak for not dismissing the greatly unhinged Bathabile Dlamini, minister for Women in the Presidency. As the lawyer Richard Spoor posted on social media: “Cyril continues to underwhelm. His long game gets longer and longer. Doubtless it’s all part of a very clever and subtle plan to turn the country around so slowly his enemies in the party won’t notice.”

Speaking of whom, there was talk that Squirrel was warned by Accused Number One’s supporters that if he fired Dlamini then, as the Citizen reported, he “would see flames”.

The newspaper quoted analyst Ralph Mathekga as saying there was no substantial reason for Ramaphosa to keep Dlamini in his cabinet, except that he was “worried because the balance of forces were still heavily against him in the ANC”.

To be fair, though, Ramaphosa did hint that a much bigger cabinet reshuffle and further streamlining of departments was possibly on the cards should the ANC be elected to govern again at the next elections: “We’re going to look at realigning government and in anticipation of the sixth democratic administration, we’ll have completed this work.”

Of course, should the ANC not get an outright majority, well, that reshuffle could be more dramatic than anticipated. 

That may be wishful thinking. Until then, we must make do with Ramaphosa’s idea of a government that is “a diverse mix of skilled and qualified people”, a government that, at the same time, paradoxically includes dead wood like Cwele, Dlamini, Mokonyane and other Zuma hangovers.

Meanwhile, over at the far end of the shopping mall, former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has been trying to flog her new political party, which she will formally launch in January. As far as we could tell, no-one was buying it. 

But it is early days. Perhaps in the Boxing Day sales…