Zuma strengthens his hand

2012-06-13 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has tried to strengthen his hand by announcing an executive reshuffle in which he appointed key backers into vacant positions, without sacking anyone.

The reshuffle yesterday, 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 party’s top brass decided by 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 officially fired Police Commissioner Bheki Cele.

Following the 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 (to Public Works as deputy).

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

Cronin, who is deputy general-secretary general of the SA Communist Party, 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 Julius Malema, Mduduzi Manana, an MP and a national executive committee member of the youth league, as a deputy minister.

Manana replaces Hlengiwe Mkhize, the 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 have considered to have been a demotion.

She replaces Roy Padayachie, who died last month.

Sisulu is said to have harboured sympathy 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, which also made her extremely unpopular in some quarters.

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 was 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.

Maritzburger Ben Martins, an SACP leader, was promoted from Public Enterprises deputy minister to Transport minister.

He has been in the executive since Zuma’s first reshuffle in 2010. Like Cronin, he is a poet.

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

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

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