Getting down to work

2009-05-18 00:00

DA leader Helen Zille dipping into the same gutter as the ANC Youth League may have featured as the political show of the week, but far more was on the go. The big question being asked is how will the communist- and capitalist-leaning cabinet ministers collaborate? Many of them have worked together very successfully, in that broad church the United Democratic Front (UDF).

A far more binding imperative though, is the common purpose of making government work. Keeping these ministers in tune is the burden of responsibility in delivering on the ANC mandate to an increasingly discerning electorate. Let’s hope they don’t get distracted by their powerful constituencies when tough choices have to be made.

There is also the all encompassing National Planning Commission, with its two ministers, Trevor Manuel and Collins Chabane. Manuel will lead economic planning, but it is Chabane who seems to have captured the imagination on the way forward.

So far Chabane is making all the right noises. A former Robben Island prisoner, his job is to monitor and evaluate government programmes and performance. In interviews, Chabane has said he is aware that this is no easy task and bruising battles lie ahead. He has stated very clearly that slackers at all levels of government will not be tolerated. There is no choice, he claims, with local government elections two years away.

Chabane’s long reach will extend all the way down to provincial and local government. KwaZulu-Natal, on the face of it ,looks ready to meet the challenge. Much of this is due to the highly regarded Zweli Mkhize as premier. There have been questions on his choice of cabinet, but cabinet ministers are not handpicked. This is a process undertaken by the ANC’s provincial deployment committee, which has to consider the wishes of powerful lobbies like the ANC regions, the Women’s League and the alliance partners.

The Women’s League, which lost its bid to get Peggy Nkonyeni nominated as premier, has its representatives in Lydia Johnson and Weziwe Thusi. Johnson and Thusi have had experience in government. However, women want their representatives not just to be token, but to show mettle and leadership. Johnson will certainly have a chance to prove this as she heads the embattled department of Agriculture. So too will Thusi, who has taken over Sport with the 2010 Soccer World Cup round the corner.

A dark horse who may just prove her mettle is Maggie Govender, MEC for Human Settlement and Public Works. Govender has experience in her portfolio. She has worked in the housing sector alongside the late Vish Sewpersad, rated as one of the leading housing experts in the country. She was also involved in the Urban Sector Network.

Those who know Ina Cronje believe she is more than capable of running the province’s finances. At one stage she was treasurer for the local ANC region and kept a tight rein on how money was spent.

An inspired choice is the well-liked Sibongiseni Dhlomo as MEC for Health. The appointment of a medical doctor is a relief to the medical fraternity; the previous MEC, Nkonyeni, was a former primary school teacher.

Equally welcomed is newcomer to the cabinet, MEC for Education, Senzo Mchunu, a trained teacher, whose skills were ably demonstrated as ANC provincial secretary and as chairman of the education portfolio committee. Former speaker in the legislature, Willies Mchunu, as MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs, certainly has his work cut out for him, with local government elections looming. Those who know Mchunu say that behind his soft-spoken persona lies a tough pragmatist.

The very capable Mike Mabuyakhulu, previously MEC for Local Government, brings his innovative abilities to his new post as MEC of Economic Development and Tourism.

There seemed just no way that the hugely popular MECs for Safety and Social Development, Bheki Cele and Meshack Radebe, could have been left out. Radebe, known as the sod-turning minister, built a huge profile in the rural areas during his sod-turning odysseys. The test now is to turn that sod into structures.

While the tough-talking Cele has been dubbed controversial because of some of his utterances, he has managed his portfolio and is credited for controlling the taxi wars.

The real challenge for Mkhize and his cabinet now is to get their administrations working efficiently. They will have to shake up the complacent, weed out the deadwood and move those ill-suited to their jobs. This will have to happen soon, goodwill towards the incoming administration will only last so long. They’ve also got Chabane looking over their shoulders!

 

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