Ramaphosa's cabinet clean-up shows promising signs of what lies ahead

04 March 2018 - 00:00 By Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement of his first cabinet was another stark reminder of how bad former president Jacob Zuma's administration was.
Despite the massive cabinet cull, many felt he could have done more. Ramaphosa finally made the long-awaited changes to his national executive. Since winning the presidential contest against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the ANC's national conference in Nasrec in December, he has been under immense pressure to deal decisively with corruption and state capture by members of the national executive.
The pressure intensified after Zuma's exit from the Union Buildings two weeks ago.On Monday evening he responded by announcing one of the biggest cabinet shake-ups in recent years when he sacked a third of the cabinet. Ramaphosa fired 10 ministers and three deputy ministers. This was by far the biggest cabinet cull since 1994.
The last time so many people were shown the door was in 2010, when Zuma fired seven ministers from his cabinet. This move won Zuma accolades for his "bravery" in axing nonperforming ministers. Among those fired were seasoned politicians and senior ANC leaders like former minister of communications Siphiwe Nyanda and struggle veteran Makhenkesi Stofile, then sports minister. Zuma was praised for showing leadership.
Despite kicking out 10 ministers and three deputy ministers from this national executive, Ramaphosa was not so lucky. His reshuffle was met with mixed reaction. Many welcomed the changes while others criticised him for not doing enough and for putting the ANC ahead of South Africa.
The CEO Initiative, made up of business leaders from various sectors of our economy, was impressed. It described the changes as the first step in bringing stability to Ramaphosa's administration, boosting confidence in our economy and setting us on an improved growth trajectory.
It is right, of course. If there is one thing that Ramaphosa did right that evening it was the calculated changes he made to those departments that almost brought the South African economy to its knees.In bringing back Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan as finance and public enterprises ministers respectively, and appointing new ministers for mineral resources and co-operative governance in Gwede Mantashe and Zweli Mkhize, Ramaphosa did not only make the right appointments, but also dealt a massive blow to the project of state capture.
This project was masterminded by Zuma and ministers such as Faith Muthambi, Des van Rooyen, Mosebenzi Zwane and Lynne Brown. The fact that they are no longer part of the cabinet shows that Ramaphosa is serious about rooting out corruption and maladministration in the national administration.
Not everyone is impressed with the changes. His decision to retain Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba, who many believe is one of the architects of state capture, is what has led to some among us feeling that, like Zuma before him, Ramaphosa is putting the ANC before the country.
Zuma is known for having made it clear that he will always put the ANC before the country. With Ramaphosa now president, there was hope that this would change and that we would have a head of state who would put the interests of the country ahead of those of his own political party.
Those not impressed with changes to the national executive argue, and rightly so, that the new cabinet is filled with compromised and questionable characters. And who can blame them when you have David Mabuza as deputy president and Dlamini and Gigaba as members of cabinet?
While the criticism is justified, we should not forget the difficult task that lay before Ramaphosa as he sought to put together a team to tackle the many challenges facing the country.
We did not get all we wanted, but the changes are a confirmation that we are on the right track.

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