New Cabinet a symbol of promise and compromise – FW de Klerk Foundation

Theuns Eloff says Ramaphosa got rid of the worst of the 'Zuma-ites'

The new Cabinet – Symbol of Promise and compromise

27 February 2018

Since his narrow victory and election as president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa has had to consolidate his power base cautiously and slowly. He has had to walk the tightrope of fighting corruption and state capture and providing good governance on the one hand, and building unity and striving for reconciliation within the ANC, on the other. In politics, compromise is part and parcel of what any leader faces. The Cabinet appointed yesterday carries the hallmark of this dilemma.

The good news is that he got rid of the worst of the Zumaites: Bongo, Brown, Mahlobo, Maswanganyi, Mbalula, Mkhize, Muthambi, Nhleko, Van Rooyen and Zwane. In this way, he “cleansed” strategic (especially economically-related) portfolios and replaced them with able, experienced and loyal ANC leaders. Examples of this trend are Pravin Gordhan (Public Enterprises), Nhlanhla Nene (Finance), Naledi Pandor (Higher Education and Training), Lindiwe Sisulu (International Relations and Cooperation), Gwede Mantashe (Mineral Resources), Derek Hanekom (Tourism), Blade Nzimande (Transport), Bheki Cele (Police) and Jeff Radebe (Energy). For the same reason, he kept some able and loyal ministers in their portfolios (such as Angie Motshekga in Basic Education).

The bad news is that he was forced to compromise and keep some “Zumaites” in the Cabinet, mainly in less strategic and economically unrelated portfolios. This applies to Malusi Gigaba (Home Affairs), Nomvula Mokonyane (Communications), Ayanda Dlodlo (Public Service and Administration) and perhaps most disappointingly Bathabile Dlamini (The Presidency, Women).

The appointment of David Mabuza as Deputy President is surely also a compromise, as is the appointment of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the office of the Presidency. Perhaps the adage that you should keep your friends close and enemies closer comes to mind.

There are some choices that are not that clear. These include the appointment of a Zuma loyalist in the important portfolio of Rural Development and Land Reform (Nkoana-Mashabane). The same applies to keeping the vociferous Lindiwe Zulu as minister of Small Business Development. But, as some commentators have remarked, some of those portfolios that were left untouched, may disappear in a final, smaller Cabinet.

The other important yardstick by which to measure the choices in Cabinet, is President Ramaphosa’s striving to have a magnanimous and consultative style, and especially his strategy of playing the “long game”. In a few cases the law may take its course and rid him of some of those he was forced to keep. It is also true that this is, in effect, an interim Cabinet, with a final Cabinet emerging only after the 2019 general elections. It may also be that once the research about a smaller Cabinet is complete, some changes will be forthcoming in any case.

The new Ramaphosa Cabinet shows strong signs of promise. It is a move towards clean and good government, based on constitutional principles. It also shows the signs of compromise, but with an election looming on the horizon, concessions were bound to be the norm. This should be managed actively so that it does not undermine the promising move to constitutionalism, nor the urgent tasks of taming corruption, state capture and racketeering. 

Issued by Theuns Eloff, Executive Director, FW de Klerk Foundation, 27 February 2018