Zuma strengthens his hand through Cabinet reshuffle

2012-06-12 16:33

President Jacob Zuma has strengthened his hand by announcing a Cabinet reshuffle in which he appointed some key backers into vacant positions, without sacking anybody.

The reshuffle this afternoon, the third in as many years, followed a special ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Monday, where Zuma received a massive boost after the NEC decided with a clear majority to reject efforts by expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema to have his sentence overturned.

Zuma announced his decision at a special press conference at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, during which he also fired national police commissioner Bheki Cele and appointed Mangwashi Phiyega in his place.

Following government’s embarrassing handling of the Gauteng e-toll saga, Zuma attempted to turn over a new leaf in the transport department by moving both Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele (to Correctional Services) and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin (now deputy minister of public works).

Ndebele has come under fire for his handling of the implementation of e-tolls, with the party saying he failed to update them about developments in government.

Cronin, who is deputy secretary general of the SACP, was tasked with selling e-tolls to the public.

With his party increasingly becoming outspoken about the Gauteng e-toll system, he might have found himself compromised.

In a surprise move Zuma also appointed an outspoken opponent of Malema, Mduduzi Manana, an MP and a national executive committee member of the league.

Manana replaces Hlengiwe Mkhize, ANC Women’s league treasurer, who was moved from Higher Education to Economic Development, where she will be deputy minister.

Lindiwe Sisulu was moved from Defence to Public Service and Administration in what some consider to be a demotion.

She replaces Roy Padayachie, who died last month.

Sisulu is said to have harboured sympathies for Malema, but has also been criticised for her disregard of the legislature after refusing to answer parliamentary questions and give account in public of her department’s activities.

Sisulu, who faces the immediate task of negotiating with public service unions in the run-up to strike season, took a harsh stance against military unions in the past.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was active in the ANC’s political military structures in exile in the 1980s, was moved from Correctional Services to Defence.

In her three years at Correctional Services her performance has been underwhelming, but she has succeeded in scrapping the building of five new private prisons.

Mapisa-Nqakula has been in the executive for a decade. She sided with former president Thabo Mbeki before Zuma was appointed, but has been considered a reliable loyalist since Zuma retained her in his Cabinet.

Ben Martins, a former ANC MP and a leader in the SACP, was promoted from Public Enterprises deputy minister to Transport.

He is also a poet and has been in the Cabinet since Zuma’s first reshuffle in 2010.

Sindi Chikunga, long-time MP and chairperson of the National Assembly portfolio committee of police, was appointed as his deputy.

Chikunga has earned praise as chairperson and she’s been outspoken about the crisis in the police triggered by the suspension of former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

Police chiefs were expected to account to her committee about the matter on Friday, but it’s unclear if the meeting will go ahead now.

Deputy chief whip Gratitude Magwanishe was appointed deputy public enterprises minister.

Despite repeated rumours that Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale would be axed because of his campaigning to replace Zuma at the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in December, he stayed put again, as did Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, who is also said to oppose Zuma’s leadership.

There were similar rumours that Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti, would be axed for his lack of loyalty, but he also stayed put.

Three vacancies were created by the death of Padayachie, the resignation of Enoch Godongwana (Economic Development) and move of Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu from Public Works to the ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities last year.

The ANC in a statement welcomed the reshuffle, saying it would “enhance capacity in government”.

– Additional reporting by Mmanaledi Mataboge

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