The new president hopes to unite warring factions in the ruling party, writes Molebatsi Masedi.
OPPOSITION parties and commentators asked Ramaphosa to do a wholesale reshuffle of cabinet and appoint Lindiwe Sisulu or Naledi Pandor as deputy president. Ministers appointed by former President Jacob Zuma would give way to the new brooms to sweep the country clean.
The so-called Gupta-Ministers would top the list of those dumped.
The Economic Freedom Front went so far as to boycott the tabling of the national budget by then Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba. Gigaba was too compromised to deliver the budget speech, the party argued.
During the state of the nation address Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane rattled names of Ministers who had to be recalled from the executive. The list included Gigaba, Mosebenzi Zwane, Des van Rooyen, Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane, David Mahlobo, Lynne Brown and Faith Muthambi.
The calls for a malicious cabinet reshuffle ignored ANC dynamics of the party being the centre of power and also the sanctity of party unity. Ramaphosa couldn’t just wake up and clear the cabinet. He has to consult extensively within the party and its allies such as COSATU and SACP before making a public announcement.
Only after painstaking consultations, would Ramaphosa pronounce on the deputy president and the cabinet.
On Monday evening Ramaphosa eventually took the nation into his confidence and announced the much anticipated deputy president and the cabinet.
David Mabuza is handed the deputy President position, against the popular opinion of a woman deputy.
Much to the displeasure of the opposition benches in parliament Malusi Gigaba is retained, though as Minister of Home Affairs where he did a good job.
The much scorned Bathabile Dlamini goes to the Ministry of Women in the Presidency. Nomvula Mokonyane goes to the much troubled Department of Communications.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane loses International Relations to Lindiwe Sisulu and gains Rural Development and Land Reform.
Presidential hopeful Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma joins the presidency as the Minister responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation. Obviously this it communicate the message of unity which emerged from Nasrec in December.
Notable of the reshuffle is the fall of Mosebenzi Zwane, Des van Rooyen, Faith Muthambi, and Fikile Mbalula who leaves Parliament for Luthuli house, Lynne Brown, Bongani Bongo, David Mahlobo, Dr Hlengiwe Mkhize, Joe Maswanganyi and Nathi Nhleko.
As it were, Ramaphosa opted for a unity cabinet to bring together the warring factions within the party. The cabinet composition factored in, the unity national executive committee that emerged from the ANC 54 national conference. Nasrec gave the party an evenly balanced leadership representing Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma. Consequently the president had to see to an equitable representation of both slates in his cabinet.
Also accommodated are the communists who were decimated from the national leadership of the ANC by conference. None of the SACP national office bearers are represented in the ruling party national leadership. Blade Nzimande finds his way back into the cabinet as national transport Minister.
Pravin Gordhan, Derek Hanekom and Nhlanhla Nene are back in the pound seat after being side lined during the Zuma era. Bheki Cele returns the Department of Police where he was found not fit to continue as national police commissioner. ANC national chairperson and former secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, comes in at Mineral Resources. Mantashe cut his teeth in the National Union of Mine Workers which he led for a long time.
Former Cape Town metro executive mayor, Nomaindia Mfeketo is the first timer at Human Settlements where he takes over from Lindiwe Sisulu.
The cabinet has been embraced within the ANC-led alliance, as would be expected.
As for the opposition, the EFF made an outright rejection of the cabinet reshuffle. In a statement the party said the reshuffle was a mere realignment of corrupt and state capture delinquent ministers.
The official opposition DA expressed outrage, more especially with the retention of Gigaba and Bathabile in the excutive. It accused Ramaphosa of putting the ANC first, rather than the country and the people. An illustration that the problem of the country is the ruling party, and not individual leaders.
Civil society groups like Sonke Gender Justice responded with disappointment to the cabinet reshuffle and said it shows disregard to women’s rights in South Africa. They decried the appointment of Bathabile Dlamini to the Ministry of Women.
Responding to the barrage of criticisms to his cabinet reshuffle, Ramaphosa said it was a transitional cabinet that will take the country to the 2019 general elections. This was a clear sign that he was not really happy with the new cabinet. The cabinet is an obvious compromise reached by contending forces within the ANC.
Constrained and compromised as the Ramaphosa team is, it has the daunting task of cleaning up the party and government ahead of the elections.
The country has rallied behind what the new president has heralded as the new dawn for the country.
Those who have been favoured with inclusion or retention in the executive have to be conscious that they have to make an impact now, or else face the prospects of being off-loaded at the next election.
Soon the Commission of Enquiry on State Capture will get off the ground.
Prominent ANC leaders and government ministers have been fingered in the state capture report which sparked the enquiry.
The Hawks are hard at work too, there have been raids and arrests in the Free State and Gauteng. Other warrants of arrests still have to be executed. It remains to be seen which imperial heads will roll in the coming months for complicity in state capture corruption.
Ramaphosa’s cabinet goes to work with the spectre of corruption hanging like a dark cloud over their heads. In the short time before elections, the team has to clean the image of government and restore the trust and confidence of the citizens and the world.
Ramaphosa’s whirlwind honeymoon with the people of the country has been dented by the composition of the new cabinet. Some have even come to question his sincerity with his new dawn message. It is all talk and no walk, according to some.
It was never going to be easy for Ramaphosa. He has huge prospects of success as many see him as the Messiah sent to take the country to the Promised Land of Milk and Honey as it were. He has created a huge amount of goodwill to his leadership of the party.
With the SACP officials in the cabinet the intra-alliance tensions will subside and all will rally behind the ANC now and in the future.
The people have to tamper their expectations with realities, in the party and the country in general.
The Ramaphosa caravan is at last in motion. Soon it will be clear what future it builds for the country. Time will tell.
Molebatsi Masedi is a Polokwane, Limpopo based proponent of radical socio-economic transformation. Tweeter: @MolebatsiMasedi