The blind Cabinet maker? ??

2014-06-01 15:00

President Zuma made some commendable appointments, but far too many confounding ones. Here’s what Mondli Makhanya thinks

When the surviving veterans of the Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki eras look around at the first meeting of the 2014 Cabinet, they will probably say to themselves: “Yerr, this must be the clumsiest team ever assembled in democratic South Africa.”

“Clumsy” is the only description one can attach to the collection of individuals President Jacob Zuma has put together to run South Africa from this week. In keeping with Zuma’s Cabinet-making trend, the one he sprang on us last Sunday made very little sense.

It’s just a bunch of people thrown together. Maybe even ‘jumble’ would be an appropriate word.

This is not to say it was all bad. There were some very good new appointments, retentions and shifts.

Let’s start with some sensible ones. It made absolute sense to send former finance minister Pravin Gordhan to the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department. He is a systems man who knows how to fix things and get processes moving.

This was a reputation he had in the struggle days and which he carried through the Kempton Park negotiations and into the democratic era.

It was he who turned the decrepit apartheid inland revenue service into the well-oiled machine the SA Revenue Service now is.

He was a worthy successor to Trevor Manuel at the Treasury. If there is anyone in this country who understands and can fix the mess that is local government, it is Gordhan.

His replacement as finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, was a natural choice as he has been an able understudy to both Manuel and Gordhan. Zuma was correct to ignore former SA Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni’s embarrassingly transparent campaigning for the job.

Mboweni’s self-important nature would have been disastrous in the position, which requires that the Treasury work with Cabinet colleagues, other levels of government and external stakeholders. Nene will now have to overcome his obvious lack of political clout, which is a major deficit in an environment where the finance minister must put his foot down to curb the spendthrift ways of fellow ministers and their departments.

The drafting of Lindiwe Zulu to Cabinet was long overdue. She is an intelligent hard worker and a smart operator. But the very idea of a small business development department still boggles the tiny brain of this lowly newspaperman.

There was plenty of capacity within the government as it was to support and boost small and medium enterprises.

Zulu’s woolly answers as to what exactly she is supposed to do provides pointers to turf wars that will soon break out between her and some colleagues as she steps on some very sensitive toes.

This department, much like the disbanded department of etcetera and the newly established ministry for women in the presidency are just wasteful sops to internal ANC lobbies and serve no purpose other than to keep as many people as possible aboard the mother ship happy.

Now to some examples of why this Cabinet is the result of jumbled thinking. Let us begin with the case of Lindiwe Sisulu. The poor woman has been shunted from pillar to post since the Mbeki days.

After falling out with Mbeki over the Hefer Commission in the early 2000s, she was shifted from intelligence to housing. She initially resented what appeared to the outside world to be a “demotion”, but she recognised the importance of this portfolio and waded in with her boots on.

When Zuma took over, she was “promoted” to the perceptually superior post of defence minister. Aside from clocking up air miles, she did a commendable job there and appeared to be enjoying herself. Then, out of the blue, she was “demoted” again to public service

and administration. The spin at the time was that the department needed someone of her strength and work ethic. Again, she took it in her stride and introduced some interesting innovations.

It appeared as if we finally had someone who would build a capable public service. Then this week she was shunted back to what is now known as the human settlements department. Does this make any sense?

Then there is the curious case of Siyabonga Cwele and Tina Joemat-Pettersson. The telecommunications sector seemed to be settling well under Yunus Carrim, a minister who was prepared to bang heads in this highly contested terrain. Cwele’s appointment is a dangerous diminution

of a sector that is one of the key drivers of South Africa’s economic future. As is Joemat-Pettersson’s being put in charge of securing our energy future. She has proven herself irredeemably hopeless and would be more productively used as a shop window mannequin.

Equally inexplicable is entrusting the country’s food security to former National Union of Mineworkers boss Senzeni Zokwana. Here you have someone who presided over the demise of what used to be the country’s largest union.

His singular achievement was providing space for the birth of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

Ahead lies a rocky relationship between him and the industries he will have to work with. There will also be an ugly clash of personalities between himself and his strong-willed and politically powerful deputy Bheki Cele. It does not bode well.

There are plenty more examples of the senselessness that went into the making of Team Zuma 2014.

In addition to these disastrous appointments, there are plenty of no-name brands who have been included in a bloated administration that is now approaching the size of the Cabinet of Ministers during the Soviet Union’s heyday.

This is an executive that was not designed to make administrative sense. It was designed to make political sense and appease power blocs in the ANC’s Tripartite Alliance and its constituent structures.

We can expect more perplexing reshuffles in the coming years as Zuma gradually moves from being Number 1 to being Minus 1 and tries to shore up his dwindling power.

Warning: Do not attempt to make sense of these reshuffles. You will burn a brain fuse.

How zuma promised government would improve the country in the next five years

.?Improved services

Communities will be developed where households will have access to housing, water, electricity, sanitation, safe and reliable public transport, healthcare, education, security, recreational facilities, a clean environment, and adequate nutrition.

.?Economic transformation

The structure of the economy will be transformed through industrialisation and broad-based black economic empowerment. State-owned enterprises and developmental finance institutions will become engines of development, complementing inclusive economic growth.

Employment equity, and land restitution and redistribution will be better executed. Local companies, entrepreneurs and cooperatives will be promoted through procurement by the state and its agencies.


This will be the flagship of government spending. Priority will be given to building schools, railways, ports, universities, clinics, power stations, roads and broadband. This will grow an inclusive economy.

.?Safety and security

Corruption and inefficiency in the public service will be eradicated. There will be tighter accountability, with firm consequences for service delivery failure.

.?Social cohesion

Nation building will be promoted through programmes to build the soul of the nation. Government will promote unity, understanding and tolerance.


Regional, intra-Africa trade and development of infrastructure will be supported.

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