Cabinet not quite ready to govern

2009-11-14 10:22

WITH many no- shows in what was supposed

to be the first opportunity of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet to display its

mettle and direction, ANC MPs wondered why the week’s briefings at Parliament

were scheduled to clash with the alliance summit which started on Friday.

It would have

been better, one MP suggested, to postpone all the briefings because most of the

ministers and senior ANC MPs are members of the national executive committee of

the ANC.

“This creates

the impression that the administration of President Jacob Zuma has not settled,”

another MP said.

This is not

only an impression. Zuma has restructured the state and the changes have not

been bedded down: several new ministries ­remain without staff, a budget or

­focus.

On Thursday,

Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi said the

reconfiguration of the new administration needed “finishing touches” in some

areas and substantive work in others. Economic Development Minister Ebrahim

Patel, for example, has not been allocated functions so he cannot employ staff.

To give you a

sense of cabinet performance, we have divided government into the no-shows, the

dim lights and the bright sparks.

The

no-shows

  • Transport

    Minister Sbu Ndebele chairs the vital infrastructure development cluster through

    which most state spending takes place. He and his

    deputy in the cluster Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan cancelled their

    briefing “until further notice” without providing an explanation. The political

    storm surrounding the future of now deposed Eskom chief executive Jacob Maroga

    was a perfect opportunity for reporters to quiz Hogan on her vision for

    crisis-ridden parastatals, but she was among those who did not arrive.


  • Defence and

    Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and her deputy in the cluster,

    Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, also

    cancelled their briefing. No reason was provided for the cancellation. The two

    ministers head the international cooperation, trade and security cluster which

    sets the tone for Zuma’s foreign policy. His foreign policy agenda has not yet

    been differentiated from that of his predecessor, former president Thabo Mbeki,

    and the briefing would have provided an opportunity to discern the direction of

    geopolitics. Sisulu has faced

    a tough time lately with soldier protests and debate on whether the military

    should be unionised.


  • Although the

    briefing of the social protection and community development cluster did take

    place on Monday, Social Development Minister Edna Molewa, who leads this

    cluster, stayed away. It was left to her deputy, Public Works Minister Geoff

    Doidge, to take questions. Doidge said his department had provided 300 000 job

    opportunities and was well on track to meet Zuma’s pledge of 500 000. It’s

    noteworthy that the jobs have now become job opportunities. He also said

    that 442 000 children have been registered after the increase of child grant

    eligibility to 15-year-olds. Once it is extended to the age of 18, another two

    million children will be added.


  • Police

    Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who is reported to be in a duel with his deputy Fikile

    Mbalula, did not attend the justice, crime prevention and security cluster

    briefing on Friday. He is responsible for the “shoot to kill” policy in which

    civilians have died. It is one of the key policy changes of the Zuma

    administration.


Dim

lights

  • Rural

    Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti is the chair of the economic

    sectors and employment cluster, arguably the most crucial because joblessness

    stands at almost 40%. Instead,

    Nkwinti, who is not an experienced minister, passed the chair to his deputy,

    Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor. He could only

    answer questions on his own portfolio though he is supposed to be au fait with

    economic growth and employment. He said that government would extend its land

    redistribution timetable to 2025 from 2014.


  • Pandor, for her part, had a

    rough time. She snapped at reporters who asked her questions about the impasse

    at Eskom and warned against elevating boardroom battles into national economic

    crises.


  • Basic

    Education Minister Angie Motshekga left her briefing early.


Bright

sparks

  • It was clear

    to all who attended the briefing of the human development cluster that Aaron

    Motsoaledi, the health minister, is passionate about his job. He was the star of

    the show on several fronts. He conceded

    that the Mbeki government had erred when it denied that HIV caused Aids, and

    that this had caused many deaths. This showed that he will provide leadership to

    improve our approach to the pandemic which has seen South African life

    expectancy decline dramatically. Government is expected to launch a massive

    HIV/Aids campaign in the coming months. Some may argue

    that this was an easy nettle to grasp as it is now popular to be anti-Mbeki, but

    Motsoaledi is also taking a pragmatic approach to the implementation of the

    national health insurance plan. The SA Communist Party and the union federation

    Cosatu want the National Health Insurance (NHI) system implemented immediately. He has set up a

    ministerial advisory committee on the NHI and he is going for a long-term

    approach. The members of the committee are:


  • Olive

    Shisana, the CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council and the architect of the

    proposed NHI.

  • Professor

    Ephraim Mokgokong, the retired vice-chancellor of Medunsa.

  • Shirley

    Mabusela, a global social rights practitioner.

  • Mark Heywood,

    treatment activist and deputy chair of the SA National Aids Council.

  • Mark

    Claassen, an actuary.

  • Norman

    Mabasa, the chairperson of the SA Medical Association

  • Professor

    Dianne McIntyre, Health Economics Unit at the University of Cape Town.

  • Dr Humphrey

    Zokufa, the CEO of the Board of Healthcare Funders.

  • Dr Joseph

    Kupzin, Harvard University.

  • Mark

    Bletcher, a Treasury representative.


  •  Home Affairs Minister

    Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran politician, did well during the briefings and

    so did Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel. Patel is a media darling

    because of his ability to explain economic concepts like a true unionist. Dlamini-Zuma is

    making important changes to the way birth certificates are issued and she has

    shown herself to be a humane minister.


  • Public

    Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi is a calm and frank leader

    who was honest about the challenges facing government as it implements Zuma’s

    changes.


  • Justice

    Minister Jeff Radebe also did well because he is experienced and an old hand. He

    begged the public to wait for the amendments to section 49 of the Criminal

    Procedure Act before deciding they were wrong. He also said that

    his department had worked hard to make the controversial Superior Courts

    Amendment Bill palatable to judges. “We (government and judges) are one on this

    and there are no running battles,” said Radebe. 


The

sleepy award goes to?...

  •  Cooperative Governance

    Minister Sicelo Shiceka arrived 30 minutes late for the governance cluster

    briefing and, worse, was falling asleep as his colleagues answered questions

    from the media.


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